Wednesday, November 30, 2011

From asimonim to SKYPE

After a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend with my fabulous sister, I'm back to researching and writing my business plan, and networking and interviewing.  I've got lots of good stuff happening in these next couple of weeks, and my work life in Denver feels promising.

One part of my process has been thinking about how social media has changed the practice of public relations.  Came across the clever video below in my research.  Really, its worth taking a look ...

And thats from two years ago.


This morning I spent time with my future sister-in-law who lives in Israel, lets call her "R," well, because thats the first letter of her name.  "R" and I have never met (in person).  But, skype allowed me to see her, and talk to her, and start to get to know her, and show her pictures of my kids, her "niece & nephew to-be", AND even have the chutzpah to ask her for graphic design help.  And, to feel connected to her in a very real way.  Skype.  Fabulous.

So I've been thinking about social media.  (If you're interested in checking out a list of the top 50 social media resources, click here.)  And I'm skyping.  And, So, because I guess thats what you do when you get to be almost 40, I started thinking about twenty years ago, when "I was "R's" age" ... living in Israel and trying to communicate with my family in the U.S. ...

In 1991, I was a student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.   In order to talk to my parents, I had to use one of the half a dozen or so pay phones located in the one "phone room" located in the basement of one of the dorm buildings on campus.  (I don't know the exact number of students this one phone room serviced, but just believe me when I say, it was a lot.) When it was finally my turn to make a call, I got to insert a phone card into a slot in the phone.  Then, I dialed the AT&T code, and then the phone number.  Maybe, just maybe, I would then get through to their line.  If I did have such luck, I had to talk very quickly a) because it cost a small fortune b) I was likely to get cut-off, and c) the person behind me in line was waiting to try and connect, albeit briefly, with his/her own family.

But oh how fabulous this all seemed compared to what I had to do 10 years earlier!  In 1981, I also lived in Israel - with my parents at the Mercaz Klita, or "absorption center" for new immigrants to Israel in Ranana.  Here, there was not just one phone room, but JUST ONE PHONE.  Though it was thirty years ago, I can see as clear as day in my mind's eye that lonely phone booth located in the lobby of that institution.  And, I can see my young mother, inserting more and more asimonim, phone tokens, into that phone so that we wouldn't get cut off as we tried desperately to hear my grandmother in Virginia over the fuzzy line.  

Oh how far we have come.

So good to connect with "R."  So good to connect with you.  Connecting in 2011.  So very very good.
 Back to work now.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

simple pleasures, continuing my journey along Route 70

You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something -- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
- Steve Jobs

Today was great.  Couldn't have planned it.  Wouldn't have known just a few years back that I'd think it so good.  But it was.  From start to finish.  Really great.

Woke up feeling rested.   A big, huge, important component to any good day of mine.  Yes, almost 40 me knew better than to push myself to go to a friend's pre-Thanksgiving party last night when I was feeling so tired from the week, PMS, life, etc.  Larry and Caleb went to join the fun, and I got Adina and her cold to sleep by seven, watched "Water for Elephants" on demand (book obviously way better), drank 2 glasses of cabernet, ate a bag of Stacy's pita chips and a pint of Jeni's passion fruit frozen yogurt, and was sleeping by 10:00.  Necessary and delightful solo evening.

So, 8 hours sleep + two cups of Dunkin Donuts coffee + a bowl of banana slices, greek yogurt, honey and almonds = Evelyn raring to go this morning.   Made Caleb and Adina some challah french toast.  Loaded up the car with some sheets and towels and a bag full of homemade "happy birthday" signs for Larry.  His birthday is Thursday, and we'll be spending it - and Thanksgiving - in Keystone.  Since Larry was on call and couldn't go up this weekend,  the kids and I decided to go up and "prep" the condo for a celebratory birthday arrival.

It was the first time I did the driving "up to the mountains."  WOW!  I'm not sure why, but the views were even more magnificent from the driver's seat.  Did driving make me feel more in control of my destiny?  Maybe.  Because you know that calmness you feel when you realize that a choice or choices you've made were good and right - even when you weren't 100% sure of where they would lead when you made them.

Peace of mind.  Yeah.  I had it.

Denver and the Rocky Mountains =  a very, very good call.

It was so hard for me to leave Columbus, Ohio.  You see, for the first time since I was thirteen years old and left Newport News, Virginia for Silver Spring, Maryland, living in Columbus, Bexley rather, made me feel like I was "from somewhere."

Throughout the first 13 years of my life, I moved a fair amount within Tidewater, Virginia.  An apartment, a townhouse, and a house in Newport News, a house in Virginia Beach, back to a different house in Newport News.  But I had a big, loving extended family in the area, so even without four specific walls that stayed mine for much longer than a couple of years or so, I was always home.  My two grandfathers and maternal grandmother had lived their entire lives there; my mom grew up there; my dad grew up there; there were dozens of aunts, uncles, cousins, all within a half hour drive.  We even had a play house at Buckroe beach that my paternal grandfather had built.  

Even a six-month stint in Ranana, Israel when I was in the fifth grade, that my parents at first called aliyah, and then, "an adventurous vacation," didn't shake the feeling that I was from Newport News, Virginia.

I will bore you with the details of where life took me from the eighth grade until I moved to Columbus, Ohio in March, 2006 in many blog posts to come.  Promise.  Suffice it to say for now, however, that while those years were rich with opportunities to learn, explore and grow, (and I wouldn't change one minute of them, even if I could, no way, no how) they lacked a certain sense of security that this one-time, small town in Virginia girl missed.

I got that sense back in Ohio.  Maybe it was because most everyone I got close to in the 5 1/2 years I lived in Bexley was actually "from there," or married to someone who was.  Maybe its just like that everywhere in the midwest.  Or maybe it was the simple fact that 5 1/2 years was the longest I'd lived anywhere in a very long time.

Doesn't matter.  Leaving was terrible.

But, I couldn't stay and go where I wanted to go.  I didn't want to leave Bexley.  But I did, very much, want to live and raise my family in Colorado.

So, the rest of today - - The kids and I made a pit stop at Starbucks.  We got to Keystone around 10.  We unpacked the car.  We changed into our bathing suits.  Ahhh, heated pool + hot tub conveniently located in the complex in the building directly across from ours, 3 feet away.  Back inside to change.  Quick drive to the mini market three minutes up the street for some lunch and snacking basics.  Adina coloring happily; Caleb making signs to label all "his" shelves, drawers, etc in the room he and Adina share, oy, happily; and me, cozied up in my bed staring out the window, happily.

Got back to Englewood just in time to grab some sushi for dinner, now the kids are sleeping, and I'm truly inspired to write for the first time in a couple of weeks.

Great day.  Got enough sleep.  Ate well.  Enjoyed my children.  Felt grateful for my husband; my choices; my life.

If I don't talk to you before ...



Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tzedakah, a Helicopter, and Coffee

Tzedakah, a Helicopter Ride & Coffee
(or, "Blogging about Why I Haven't Been Blogging")

I've had blog-writer's block.  I sat down to write a couple of times in the last week, then ended up just surfing facebook while I sipped my grande decaf half skim, half soy extra hot latte.  I wonder why the lack of motivation to release my inhibitions on blogger?

Maybe I've been too busy attending fundraising events for the Jewish community to have time to think about what to write.  Larry and I have been to four in the last week.  Four.  In one week.  Two for the Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado.  They split the men & women up for this one - "Choices" and "The Men's Event" - I suppose we raise more money that way, and well, its always nice to have an official evening to bond with your fellow Jews & Jewesses.  Then, last Saturday night we went to "Dancing through the Decades" at our synagogue.  Right.  We moved to a bigger, more urban city and we spent our Saturday night on a make-shift wooden dance floor in the middle of the Hebrew Educational Alliance social hall, jumping up & down to 80s music, with a bunch of other 40-somethings dressed in costumes from their favorite period in time.  And loving it.  Congratulating ourselves on having found our people; the friends we hope will be dancing on that exact same floor in five years at Caleb's bar mitzvah.  Hello, my name is Evelyn, and I might not be cool.

Tuesday night also called for dressing up.  In western wear.  You heard me.  It was the "Wild West Auction Kick-Off" at Denver Jewish Day School.  And I wore cowboy boots and a denim jacket over a little blue dress with ruffles.  Larry laughed out loud when he saw me.  No, I do not have a picture.  Alas, it was a super fun evening with delicious margaritas and s'mores, just like the cowboys used to eat.  And someone donated a helicopter ride to school the next day!

I suppose I could take the opportunity here to write about the challenge of keeping it real for your kids when their normal includes a friend or two whose parents can buy them a helicopter ride to school (money to benefit the school!) and many whose family's own more than one home.  Good topic for another day...

Ok, thats a step.  I've got down what I will not be writing about.  Hmmm...

Yesterday morning was going to be it.  I sat down at the Starbucks at Monaco & Evans, with the intention to write for a solid hour before heading to a networking lunch.  So while I was playing on facebook, I saw that a friend got a big response when she posted about the complicated coffee orders she overhears at her local Starbucks (hi Main Street in Bexley; I miss you!).  About 20 of her friends & family took the opportunity to share their favorite high-maintenance orders.  And that got me thinking about a book I read a few years ago called "Its Not About the Coffee: Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks" ....   

According to author Howard Behar, what Starbucks is about is the people, “At Starbucks, the coffee has to be excellent, from the sourcing and growing to the roasting and brewing. The vision has to be inspiring and meaningful. Our finances have to be in order. But without people, we have nothing. With people, we have something even bigger than coffee.” 

During his many years as a senior exec at Starbucks, Behar emphasized that if you 
regard employees and customers as human beings, everything else will take care of itself. If you think of your staff as people (not labor costs) they will achieve results beyond what is thought possible. And if you think of your customers as people you serve (not sources of revenue) you’ll make a deep connection with them, and they’ll come back over and over. 

OK, now we're making progress.  Because I was thinking - and now the next morning I am writing - about that which I should be thinking and writing.  Business.  How to run one.  What my own business will be about.  And whether it will succeed.  

Aha.  There you have it.  Not blog-blocked by a lack of desire to share (puleeease), but because I should be writing something else.  A business plan.   

You see, I think at least one of the reasons I agree to hand over upwards of $4/day for a cup of coffee with steamed milk (and DECAF for god's sake) is that it gives me a sense of control over my universe.  I get exactly what I want, how I want it, because I want it.  

And how many things other than my Starbucks order go like that in a day?

So, here I go to push through fear of the unknown - and to write.  

Thanks for listening.   
Please enjoy your coffee!


Sunday, November 6, 2011

preparing to launch Evelyn 4.0

Its Sunday, November 6.   And I am feeling pretty excited for the week ahead.  This past Friday was a bit of a bummer; I had a meeting set up with the president of a leading PR firm in town, but she called at the last minute to postpone it til next Tuesday.  So Tuesday (hopefully) it is.  I really like the looks & sounds of this agency.  Its made up of only senior staff, no entry level positions, and the employees are mostly women.  Some are full-time, but many work on a contract-basis.  They all have impressive resumes - high level positions at prominent places, and all joined this agency seeking a work-life balance that would make them better at their jobs, and everything else.  The agency is also highly committed to community service, encouraging employees to take time out of their day for volunteering, and paying the charities for the hours each employee gives.  So cool, right?

Then, on Friday, I am meeting with the president of another PR agency.  This agency specializes in corporate citizenship, or "bringing together businesses, nonprofits, and philanthropic individuals for a common cause."   On Thursday, I am meeting with the president of the Denver chapter of a national organization that works to ensure all girls reach their full potential - "empowered girls and an equitable society."  Love it.  Love the cause.  Love the possibilities.  Love that I am getting back out there.

With a completely new sense of confidence.  And calm.

Maybe life really does begin at 40.

Its not like I haven't had moments of panic or insecurity since starting this "relaunch career" process.  Oh I have.  See Friday's cancellation of meeting mentioned above.  Or, consider my response to a casual mention from a friend that my new linkedin profile looked good.  Well obviously I burst into tears and a la Sally Fields exclaimed, "really, you really think it looks ok, really!?"

But, for the first time in a very long time, my self-accepting moments far outweigh the self-doubting ones.  I, in fact, live with self-acceptance, and experience occasional moments of self-doubt.  Not the other way around.

So very much better this way.

The ability to stay the confident course is due in part, I believe, to knowing that a) I need other people to help me through sometimes, and b) thats ok.  Preferable even.  As I power walked through the neighborhood this morning soaking up some glorious CO vitamin D, I chatted with my sister, and she made me feel like a rock-star in that way that only a sister can about my meetings this week.  On a similar walk on Friday morning, I reached out to a colleague from my last job who I had not talked to in quite some time,  and, oy, did she pump me up in exactly the way that I needed.  Thank you so much "A!"  You are forever my "office little sister."   The students have become the masters.  And of course, there is the friend who received my teary thanks for her kudos on my online resume, and came up with the title for this week's entry.

So, yes, I get by with a little help from my friends.  And, a lot of it just finally comes from me.  Since I'm quoting Sally Field here today, " It took me a long time not to judge myself through someone else's eyes."

So off I go into a week of trying to peddle my professional talents.  If not me, who?  If not now, when?

Wish me luck.

Right back at ya.

Confidence, like art, never comes from having all the answers; it comes from being open to all the questions.