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seven


Dear Becket,

I am trying to find a way to tell you how much I love you.

There was a night recently when we were traveling, when I was awake all night in our hotel room worrying how I could describe it to you.

My love for you is deeper than the deepest depth, wider than forever, and cannot be described through art or music.

The only thing I can think of that even comes close, is the to tell you to watch for something:

One day,

When you are riding on the bow of a boat on a crystal clear turquoise blue lake, like Higgins Lake, in the late afternoon…

Watch.

Watch for the sunshine on the water.

Watch for the brilliance, the magic, the fire of the sun as it slowly sinks closer and begins to waltz with the breath-taking beauty of the pristine blue.

Watch how the bright golden and amber flashes of light slam dance off the tops of the azure waves and ricochet around the happy faces and bright smiles of the friends you are with.

Feel the coolish breeze in your impossibly messy/curly inherited hair.

Watch.

Watch the sky and the water, and the faces filled with laughter, glistening like God has sewn golden sequins all around you.

Feel.

Feel the warmth, the Joy of that moment.  Now multiply it by infinity…

And that begins to come close to how much I love you.

 

Happy Birthday my dear sweet miraculous bundle of fire.

I wish you a day filled with wonder and a life filled with magic.

Love, Mama

Self Promotion

Once upon a time, I was the Assistant Designer for Banana Republic evening-wear, swim-wear, active-wear, and intimates.  I was part of an International Design Team housed in a gorgeous old warehouse in the garment district of NYC with gothic pillars and floor to ceiling windows and an open limit shopping account.   My boss was a fabulous and funny woman from Southern England who had studied fashion design in London and Paris.

I got to sketch her ideas that were then constructed and fit to perfection on a professional model, before they were shown in our Formal Fashion Show Presentation each season.  It was rushy, heady work filled with excitement and adrenaline and travel and shopping and fashion.  It was the PERFECT job!

For somebody else.

I, frankly, was miserable.  I was an odd ball who knew more about 17th Century Period Panniers than poplin, pleats or pin tucks.  I was a fashion freak who still secured my shirt into my knickers to keep it tucked in tight.   And wore BELTS!  I liked them and they liked me, but it was definitely a case of the Chicken being raised by the Duck Family.

Thanks to that company, I was introduced to the land of Personal Development, where I discovered my core strengths and talents revolve around positivity, making the most of a situation, and helping others strategize how to do the same and to reach their full potential.

Soon after identifying what really made me tick, I resigned (much to the surprise of my friends and colleagues and the horror of my family) to go work for a gregarious, raucous, possibly bi-polar theatrical producer.   While she was a whole basket of different fruit – including but not limited to, barking orders, throwing magnificent parties, screaming at anyone who uttered the phrase “How are you?”, addictively scouring ebay for vintage Hermès Handbags,  and one time actually flicking me in the center of my forehead – the work I was doing was much closer to what was natural, what came easily to me.  So while I walked away from a sure-fire fashion career with a steady promotion path and killer benefits, it still felt like the right move.

Now as a National Motivational Speaker, I draw upon those experiences to fully understand my audiences.  To know that they might have a great job, but it might not be the right job for them.   To encourage them to break out of numbness and embrace a future filled with fire.

Ask yourself… Are YOU in a great job?  Is it great for you… or is it great for somebody else?

Do you ever hear your head tell your heart, “It’s ok, we’re safe and comfortable and we get to spend a lot of time on facebook every day!   All we have to do is stick it out until we retire in X amount of years!  THEN our life will really begin.”

Do you know what I think about THAT type of thinking?  W.  T.   F.

THIS is your life.  Right now.  Do not waste one more precious moment settling for something that you have to endure until you retire!   You get to decide what your future is going to look like.

I know you are scowling at my little picture up there and muttering “Easier said than done, Chirpy!”  

I’m not suggesting you quit your job.  Yet.  But, here are 3 steps that you can take today to get you started on your personal path toward fulfillment.

Step A:  What one aspect do you LOVE about your job?  What is it you do that makes time disappear while you are working?  What is the one part of you job that you always look forward to?  Is it organizing all the details?  Networking to make connections?  Building relationships?  Creating the displays?  Closing the sale?  Working quietly alone on future strategies?  Comprehending the power of Social Media?

Think about the ONE thing you love to do most.   When you have it clearly identified write what it is in a concise sentence, “I feel the most fulfilled and wholly effective in my job when I have the opportunity to _______.”

Step B:  Schedule an appointment with your supervisor.  Make it formal and make sure it is in the calendar.  In ink.   During that meeting you will share the following (rehearsed) script:

  1. When I have the opportunity to do _______ in my job, I feel fully engaged and motivated.  I feel it is one of my core strengths and when I do __________ I feel I am serving the company, client, etc with my fullest potential.
  2. I would like to please request that you consider using me any time ________ needs to be done.  
  3. Can you suggest some upcoming occasions where I may have the opportunity to do _______.

Step C:  When you do get the chance to do your thing, knock it out of the park!  Yes, it may mean a few longer hours or it may mean working through lunch or working at home for an hour or two after the kids are asleep, and you wish you were as well.  But the time and effort you put in to shine in the area you feel most fulfilled with will pay off in a multitude of ways.

You will be more engaged.  More energized.  More confident.  More effective overall.  And THAT will be noticed.  Then when it is time to talk about advancements or promotions, you will have a proven track record in the area you feel most alive!

As an added bonus to add fuel to your fire, look for opportunities to do your thing outside of work.  At school, your house-of-worship, local non-profit organizations, anyplace where you can spend time doing the thing you love.  This will set off a universal chain-reaction, and just may even lead to opportunities you never imagined, like being hired to do exactly what you love to do as your full time job!

Identifying what it is that burns at your core is the best way to ignite a life journey that will sizzle with satisfaction.  Please, don’t wait to retire, start living now!

Survey Says

 

Hi.  I’m Tami.  And I’m a recovering People Pleaser.

I am happy to report that most of the time, at this stage of my life, I am successful in living my life doing what is right for myself and my son, and not worrying about what others think.  Most of the time I can create boundaries between private and social life, work and play, and desire and obligation.

But every once in a while when my guard is down (sometimes it happens even before noon) I find myself uttering an impulsive “Yes” to an innocent request for my help, or my time, or my pledge.  This is when things begin to swirl and fuzz around me.

And it’s not like I drew the curtains and was “Yes-ing” in the afternoon or that I went out “Yes-ing” all night long.  No, it started as just ONE.  One hasty “Yes” can start the slide down the slippery slope of People Pleasing for me, until I find myself face down in a pile of commitment and obligation trying to be all things to all people, and having a panic attack because I forgot to SCHEDULE a time to PEE!!!   Who’s with me?  Who’s off the wagon right now?

Here is a super secret to staying on the People Pleaser Wagon.  Whenever anyone asks you to be involved in something in any way, smile and say “Let me get right back to you on that.”   It’s an easy and polite way to buy a little time to shove the People Pleaser back in the cupboard, and to check-in with yourself. Do you have the time, the energy, the room in your life to say Yes?

If so, great!  Yes away!  If not, here is another line for you, “I’ve checked into it, and I’m afraid I have to decline.”  You don’t need to give any more information than that.   Be direct, be polite, be firm.

Another time my People Pleaser tends to try sneak out is when I am about to go on stage and deliver one of my Humorous Motivational Keynote Speeches.  To combat that feeling, I always have a quick ask Up that I might help at least one person with my words and ideas.  It calms my nerves immediately, as it is no longer about me, but about helping others, which is the whole reason I do what I do.  That moment of clarity allows me to do the very best job I can.

It is in this spirit of striving to be my best, that I often reach out to participants after an event to get their feedback, positive and constructive, both of which I consider a gift.  Often I will use an on-line survey tool where the members who wish, respond to questions anonymously, and the data is sent to me with no identifying information.

While it is nice that almost all of the feedback I receive is of the positive flavor, I have definitely used the constructive comments to develop and grow as a speaker – I have improved the way I move or annunciate or tell a story based upon helpful feedback from willing participants.

Once in my experience I received feedback that was negative to the point of being painful.  I was scrolling through the comments about things people had learned and how they would use my ideas in their daily life.  It made me smile to hear what a good time 99% of the respondents had laughing and learning with me on that occasion.  Then came Anonymous #27 who gave short searing answers that indicated they felt my program was neither informative nor humorous, and actually used the phrase “waste of time” to answer one of the questions.  Now, I would absolutely expect that some of the members of my audiences might not agree with all my ideas or even my style of delivery, and I am ok with that.   I know I cannot reach all the people all the time, I just have to deliver what I believe to be the best and most helpful tools in the very me-est way I know how.  As Wanda Sykes says, “Imma Be Me!” and try my hardest to assure my message reaches the people it needs to.

Here is what I wish I could say to Anonymous #27; I sincerely thank you for taking the time to complete the survey and to share with me the fact that you did not enjoy yourself, I am truly sorry about that, HOWEVER, it would be so helpful if you could please fill out the sections where I ask for ideas on how I, and your experience, could improve, all three of which you left BLANK!

But dropping a Yuck Bomb on my head and running away is not the real problem with Anonymous #27.   The real problem with Anonymous #27 is… that I remember the words they wrote, still today, and I do not remember any of the many many many positive responses I received from that same event.

This is where I know my People Pleaser would love to come out and play.  And this is where I sit my People Pleaser down hard in a chair, look her in the eye and say, Don’t.  You.  Dare.

Even if I could ever track down and find Anonymous #27, show up at their office with homemade pesto and apologize for wasting precious moments of their time on Earth, it wouldn’t help either of us because 1) Anonymous #27 would most likely, not even REMEMBER me or the comments they pounded into the keyboard that day and 2) If they DID remember me, neither pesto, nor anything I have to say, is going to change their opinion.  Period.  It might not even have ANYTHING to do with me.

My friend and speaking mentor Christine Cashen used to hand out surveys at the end of her programs containing boxes to check off, rating aspects of her program from 1 to 10.   After several years of seeing nearly all 10’s returned from her satisfied audiences, she was surprised to see all 1’s checked off on a survey being handed to her from the last audience member to leave the room.  Believing he had misunderstood the directions she smiled and said with a wink  “You know, if you enjoyed the program today, the 10’s are the boxes to check off. “  He leveled a cold stare and replied, “I know.  I hated the program today.”  Flustered she responded, “I’m so sorry!  Why did you hate the program?”   He growled, “Because you remind me of my ex-wife and I hate my ex-wife.”

There is NO WAY you could ever People Please your way out of a situation like that!

So, as you continue to embrace your resolutions, strive to broaden your horizons and reach for higher heights in this bright shiny new year, remember that there MAY be people along the way who are not thrilled by your aspirations.  Do not let them stand in your way.  Do NOT let someone else decide what your tomorrow is going to look like.

Take a deep breath.  Take it one day at a time.  And take whatever time you need to secure the lock on your People Pleaser cupboard, and climb right back up on that wagon!

Carded

(With deep apologies to poets everywhere) 

 

Tis the week before Christmas and all through my town

If you are not careful, you might get run down.

People are scurrying, scrambling and buying –

Just grabbing a gallon of milk can be trying.

 

The children are wishing and begging for snow,

Why school is out AN ENTIRE WEEK early, I never will know!

“Is it time?”, “Is he here?”, “Can I have one more treat?”

“Four more days.  No, not yet.  First, finish your meat!”

 

If one more person at check-out utters the phrase “Are you Ready?”

I may truly snap and become a WASP Yeti!

No, I am NOT, and no matter how hard I wish

I know one task will be left not crossed-off on my list.

 

The halls will be decked with the tree twinkling brightly

And with the help of an alarm – The Elf will hide nightly

Santa will come bearing presents to please us,

And we’ll spend quiet time with a baby called Jesus.

 

We’ll have laughter and family and singing and cheer

But sadly I did not send out even ONE CARD this year.

I LOVE to open my mail filled with colorful piles

And enjoy sending our own Tidings out over the miles.

 

To New York, Australia, California and Spain

To Liverpool, London, Connecticut, Maine.

Florida, Texas, Chicago, and Here

Sending our love to sweet friends far and near.

 

Cards are a way to tell special people we care,

Think of them often and yearn to again share

Some time telling tales, laughing loud, clinking Nog.

This year (sigh) no cards – but a Holiday Blog.

 

Festive packages wrapped, dear family gathered round

Our hearts will be filled and our blessings abound.

But we want to give thanks, before this season ends

For the most precious of gifts, the love of our friends.

 

We wish you the most glorious Holiday Season and a New Year filled with magic!

Love,
Tami & Becket

 

 

Stache

I shave my face.

Yep, that’s right, starting three weeks ago, I am THE smooth upper lip chick!

I am thrilled!  But I have gotten some uneasy glances when I ask my friends to feel how smooth my lip is.  Not because I am asking them to pet me, but rather because I am talking so openly about… gasp… shaving my face!

Who cares?  I shave other things every single flipping day.  I shave my pits and legs, and try to keep the “neither regions” non-Wookie.  Yet I walked around for YEARS feeling self-conscious about a Peach-Stache that would have made Bo Duke proud.

These days it is growing at a rate that can no longer be denied as cute and fuzzy, it’s more like “DUDE!  Your MOM is rockin’ Movember!”

Recently, I was scheduled to deliver the opening Keynote Speech to a room filled with 1000 people with my face plastered on two GIANT Jumbo-Tron screens on either side of the stage.  I had an “Uh-Oh Moment.”  I was beginning to panic and had no idea what to do with this conundrum.  I must admit to being the only known female on the face of the Earth who has never been waxed.  I considered it briefly when I first moved to New York, but then heard the stories from my friends Hilary and Stephani about their “Wax Woman” who laid them on a table, cold and naked from the waist down and barked at them to “Bend and Leeeft Ur Lag Higher!”  aaaand that fleeting fantasy was OVER.

Upon hearing my dilemma, a friend rescued me when she told me that you can shave your FACE with an electric shaver!  What a concept!  What a perfect answer to rid myself of my fuzz with a quick and simple buzz!

What was heartbreaking, however, was that she reveled this amazing tool with such secrecy… with such SHAME.

I wondered why she should ever feel that way.  And I wondered why no one had ever told me about this simple solution before?  I knew I had to break this bad boy open, so I began to ask around.  I found that she is not alone – women will go to great lengths to NOT discuss shaving and faces, and would rather go into intimate detail about how they are landscaping “downstairs” instead.    Which caused me to ponder, what is the ratio of face to “there” sightings?  I’m guessing it’s about 10,000:2 – and that would be a good week!

One of my super stylish Sushi Sisters has her… um… lower area shaped into a crisp triangle of perfection, which, after two drinks served in a glass of the same shape, she just might display for you upon request (HER statistics are probably slightly higher than 10,000:2).  Why should the horticultural maintenance of one area of growth be celebrated while another is treated with indignity?  I don’t want to go all Naomi Wolf here, but I was confused.

And I’m not saying I think women should shave their facial hair, but if we choose to do so, why should we feel such disgrace?  Come ON, think about the things we do –

As women, we:

pluck

tweak

pinch

primp

plump

freeze

tuck

suck

scrape and

smooth

ALL.  THE.  TIME.

These things are splashed across every glossy magazine cover every single month with giant font and exclamation points, with step-by-step How To’s inside.  How did it transpire that women could possibly feel bad about just another “beauty ritual?”   Oh yes I remember, because society dictated that women are not supposed to shave their face.  Right.  Just like women are not supposed to vote, or drive, or balance the budget, or run corporations, or preside over nations, right?    Two words.  Puh.  Leeze.

So here is where I stand.  I did try the Norelco route first, however I am the type of person who hates buzzing anywhere near my face – that humming enamel polisher at the dentist?  Seven minutes of pure TORTURE!  I can’t even use my fancy schmancy electric toothbrush because it tickles my lips too much.

So I found an actual straight edge razor from the local make-up store in town!   I just walked in the door and asked the clerk, and she handed me a three pack of Lady Straight Edge Blades in PINK.    They are so sharp you don’t need water or lotion or anything – it takes 20 seconds every other week and is painless.   I will admit to one downside – I can now see lines around my lips that I never knew existed before because they were cleverly hidden.

So… shave or don’t.  But please let’s not EVER feel ashamed about something we are doing to make ourselves happy.

You work hard, you are a good person, and you deserve to feel good about yourself!

And if you want to do something that is truly guaranteed to make you feel better… toss all your beauty magazines into the recycling bin without opening them! 

Inflation

This time each year, it happens every time I drive along the streets or walk the sidewalks of my neighborhood.   I am calmly going about my day, when suddenly I turn the corner and one of THEM appears right before me.

They are appearing like mushrooms.

They are taking over.

They are Inflatables.

I feel my chest tighten and my blood pressure rise.  I try to look away, but I know IT IS THERE, vacant eyes and painted smiley smile mocking me as it wavers back and forth, jiggling slightly, enjoying a silent but hearty belly-laugh at my expense.

I don’t know when my disdain for this type of decoration started, but it has gotten to the point that seeing a new Inflatable in town causes me to snort in disbelief that yet ANOTHER neighbor is willing to besmirch their lawn, their home, their very REPUTATION, in the name of lawn ornamentation.

I do believe myself to be one of the most tolerant people around.  I have friends of every walk of life, many colors and cultures, and several different beliefs and orientations.  I was shocked to discover how deep my feelings for Inflatable Owners ran.

The truth about my prejudice was revealed to me recently on a run with a dear friend during a visit to her Florida home.  As we made our way through the palm green neighborhood with Wannabe White-Christmas Thingy-Bobs strewn across every ficus shrub in sight, I loudly shared my feelings about every electrically enhanced Frosty, Santa and Rudolph we passed.

My aversion comes not from the garish nature of the things and not from the crazy amount of electricity they command – I mean, I leave MY sparkly white tree lights on all day long, so I am totally guilty of a big fat carbon footprint each December.

No, the distress for me is when they are NOT inflated.  They just lie there in a huge dazzling bulge of color, splayed out with their empty eyes – sometimes staring straight up, sometimes smushed face down into the snow or grass or dirt they inhabit.  The only thing I can think of when I see this dismal display is used clown condoms tossed along the side of the street.

I know.  I know, you hate me now, but COME ON!  LOOOOOOK at them!!!

As my friend Christine Cashen says, “The whole scene is entirely deflating.”

It happened on that Florida run between my rants… well, really it happened after I had started trying to keep up with her pace and could no longer utter words as I gasped for breath.  My friend was silent for a while then, in what I assumed was the spirit of friendly debate, asked, “So… would you think any less of ME if you knew I had an Inflatable in my attic?”

I panted out a laugh.  She can always make me laugh.  And kept slogging along.

Silence.

The icy cold splash of “I’m not kidding” washed over me, and I stopped dead in my tracks.

“YOU have an Inflatable in your attic?!?”

“I have two.”

The important things that happened next: 1) Surprisingly, nothing at all changed about the way I feel about her, and 2) I laughed so hard and so long that my abs hurt – making the remainder of the run superfluous, and 3) The whole idea that I was getting worked up over Yard-Bling, took on a flavor of fun and I was able to let it go… mostly.  I have a real and actual friend who is an Inflatable Owner!

I know I am extreme in my anti-inflationism.  And I do believe when you are so Anti-Something… well then, that Something will crawl up and snug into your lap and nudge you until you can get right with it.

What is the Anti in YOUR lap right now?

My awakening could not have come too soon.  This morning, my brand new next-door neighbors pulled up to the curb with a car full of Christmas cheer and a fresh cut tree strapped to the roof.  I watched them work all day to deck, and light, and swag the front of their new home.  And then I took a deep breath and walked outside to personally welcome the newest residents they had brought to our street – Inflatable Frosty, Inflatable Santa, and Three Lighted Reindeer…  with moving heads.

I have learned a lot and enjoyed this season more by working to let go of my Inflation Discrimination.  Who knows, maybe next year, I just might become a card-carrying member of the Lawn Ornament Holiday Brigade.

Yeah… probably not.

Expectations

 

I had to sprint the last two blocks but I made it just as the bus doors were hissing closed.  I had only recently moved to Chicago and was just getting the hang of the bussing system, but I knew from painful experience that missing one, could mean nearly an hour of my life trickling away waiting for the next.

From ten years living in NYC without a car, I am generally a big fan of Public Transportation.  But after that first winter in Chicago, I can honestly say I now favor Public Transportation as AN option, not THE option.

In Manhattan and the Near North Side of Chicago, you will see extremely well groomed and exquisitely dressed older men and women regularly riding the bus.  This generation is wealthy for a reason – they understand the bus is going the same place as the taxi, and is a fraction of the cost.  Generally the bus is a comfortable and enjoyable way to get around, with the added bonus of a great view of life on the city streets.

There are two exceptions; 1) Rush hour in the rain, and 2) When a crazy person is riding.

As the bus pulled over at the next stop, reason #2 ambled aboard ranting and raving and smelling like blue cheese and mushrooms.  I turned toward the window to practice tolerance and try to create my own little breathing bubble.  As he made his way down the bus aisle I heard him comment on everything from one rider’s “Amaaaaazing” boots to the sadness he felt that “The Facts of Life” was no longer on television.  In the next instant I heard him gasp and shout “Attention, Ladies and Gentlemen! Please!  This woman needs a seat!  She is in neeeeeed, please won’t someone give up their seat for this woman?”

It struck me hard, a reality check – I hadn’t even NOTICED the woman – and evidentially neither did anyone else!  Did it really take a person who obviously had very little means of his own, to call to our attention the clear need of someone right in front of us?   I felt a warm pride in the man, and turned slightly to watch him assist this woman, whom I’m sure would offer him at least a smile of gratitude.

Except, he wasn’t standing by a woman.  He was standing by ME.  Right next to me actually.  With his hand pointing toward the middle of my body, ala Vanna White.  Through my confusion, I heard these words “Ladies and Gentlemen, this woman is CLEARLY expecting, and should not be standing on a moving bus in her condition!  For the baby, won’t someone please give her their seat?!?”

The ENTIRE bus was silent but for the insanely loud heart-beat that was pounding out of my body.  A young man just in front of me started to rise, with a hand gesture that indicated he would OF COURSE surrender his seat to an enormously pregnant woman such as myself.

Except, I wasn’t pregnant.

I forced a laugh that probably sounded more like a croak and uttered (squawked) “Thanks folks.  Not Pregnant.  Just chubby.”  And I turned back to press my face against the window and stood repeatedly promising God I would never pray for a better chin again, if he would only make me invisible, just this ONE TIME?!?

I know from shared confessions around the wine bottle, that several of my friends have had a similar experience.   One friend, a professional actress, was actually asked when was the “happy day her baby would be born” from a patron in the audience during a talk-back after a matinee.  OUCH.

And I’m sure that the question asker MUST feel at least as, if not more, horrified when they are told, not a baby, just a bump.  So,  I have come up with the perfect solution to this conundrum!

If you are ever approached (perhaps at a fancy wedding to which you decided to wear your clingiest Dianne Von Furstenberg treasure from Filene’s Basement) and asked “Awww, when are you due?”   Here is your answer!

Lower your eyes, gingerly touch your muffin top, and say “In three weeks.”  The questioning person will look shocked and say (here is the best part) “You are SO TINY!!!”  And you will smile beatifically and say, “I know.”  You will share happy smiles, then excuse yourself to pee “again”, because “you KNOW how it is!”

After this exchange is over, walk away with your head held high and just keep repeating, “I am SO TINY!”   You feel great about your size, the baby-lover got to coo over you, and it will be so funny to watch that person’s face when they see you order a Bombay Sapphire Up with a twist an hour later.

And for all well-meaning folks who just want to celebrate the miracle of a tiny new life when you see it in the making – Please!  Please, even if she resembles the photo above.  Please WAIT for her to say something about being pregnant FIRST.

And for bonus points, even if she DOES resemble the photo above, smile and tell her, “You are SO TINY!”