Monday, December 11, 2017

The Struggle of Perfection

Nearly two years ago I wrote a blog about my impossible quest to be perfect. I had just lost my dad and was desperately seeking perspective. Nearly two years later, in the busiest time I've ever had in my entire life, I am still desperately and elusively seeking perspective. And this time I don't have running to anchor me and keep me sane. So I can't find perspective and am a little bit crazy. It's a tenuous situation.

On December 1 I officially started my new job as Lansing's Mayor-Elect's Chief of Staff. It's been a whirlwind. People keep using the analogy "drinking from a fire hose" and frankly that'd be a lovely drink of water in comparison to what's really happening. It's been an absolute inundation of information and people. I'm working on two transitions: a public facing transition to engage as many Lansing residents as possible and an internal transition to actually get our team in city hall on January 1, 2018. It's been amazing and fascinating and fun for every single minute. And I'm exhausted.

For the first three years of my son's life I've had total flexibility in my job. I've worked from home for the last year and a half. Being in meetings or the office all day has been a big change, but my phone is the worst part. I leave an hour meeting with dozens of text messages and 4-5 missed calls. If you want to get in touch with me your best bet is to text or email. I will return calls, but I have to actually schedule them on my calendar. 

I adjusted pretty well to a work/life balance for the first three years of my son's life because I had it easy. Now I'm trying to figure out the new balance. I'm frankly less worried about work because work makes sense. I'm worried about giving the required attention to my family and my social life. I'm falling asleep at 8:30 pm and then sending certainly confused/surprised department heads texts when I wake up at 5 am to walk the dog. 

This face. Priority #1.
I thought I'd be running by mid-December, but here we are, almost six weeks after surgery. My knee is still very swollen. In addition to the torn meniscus my surgeon also removed some inflammation from behind my knee cap, and my physical therapist said it may swell significantly for months. MONTHS. C'mon knee. How am I going to handle this volume of life without running?!?

Daily icing like a boss.
None of this is meant to be a complaint. My life is a delightful, phenomenal hurricane of awesome. I now get to paid to love not just cities but MY city. My precious son turns three years old this week, and I'm still amazed that I am fortunate enough to be his mama. My husband is crazy supportive, and I have the best group of friends any girl could ever want. Sure maybe I'm slightly swamped, but I'm grateful for every moment of it. Last weekend I still found time to dance my face off (my knee was not amused) for hours at a Christmas party. We threw our son's third birthday party. My heart and my calendar are full. 

With my girlfriend at a Christmas party...tragically in flats.
Balance is a precarious thing. If it were easy it'd be called stability right? I don't expect the next four years to be easy, but I do expect them to be fun and rewarding. But making sure my family and my friends and my health and my sanity are priorities is going to be a challenge. I'm not going to stop being a perfectionist, so I've got to figure out how to balance perfection. Perhaps I'll find the answer in a cup of holiday cheer...

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Champions

I haven't blogged in a few weeks because life has been a whirlwind. My knee is healing well although I'm never a patient patient. I'm itching to run again, and given my progress I should be back to it in a month or so. I can't wait.

Until then I'm just hanging out...doing nothing. I'm being very sarcastic. A few weeks ago, less than a week after my surgery, my good friend Andy won his election to be the new Mayor of Lansing beginning in January. He asked me to be his Chief of Staff. It's a dream job to work for someone I know and true and believe in and to work for my city where I live and work and spend most of my time (in a ½ mile radius mostly). I am humbled by his faith in me and honored to join his team in January. But in order to manage the mental gymnastics this job will take, I need to be running again.

I'm so excited to get back into city government. I still don't know exactly how a (very) small town girl became a fervent urban core city supporter, but here we are. I worked for the Mayor of Norfolk, Virginia in my first job after law school, and I've worked on local government policy in different roles in the dozen years since. But working for a city, going to city hall every day and seeing the impact that can be made in people's lives...that's where it's at. I can't wait to get back to it.

I've been fortunate in my career to work with some stellar local officials, both elected and appointed. I have myriad people I can (and will) reach out to for advice and counsel and to whom I can vent. What I love most about local government is that these are the men and women spend every single day working to make their communities a better place. As one of my city manager friends said it's not a profession; it's a calling.

I was called a dozen years ago, and I've been hooked ever since. I love all cities, but I have a soft spot for those who have potential. For the gritty ones, the challenging ones, the underdogs. Here in the Lansing region so many of my friends leave the city. It's obviously their decision, but the last few years I have to admit I have started to take it personally. I know I need to get a handle on it, but love Lansing. This is the place I have chosen as my home. I've chosen to live and work and send my kid to daycare downtown. My life happens in a half mile radius, and I wouldn't trade it for any quiet cul de sac in the world. I have too much energy for the suburbs. I need the city.

I was in San Antonio last month at the International City Managers Association, and I talked to professionals from throughout Michigan and across the country about the great work they're doing in their communities. These people are passionate. They're driven. They take dwindling municipal resources and make sure our city services are stellar. These are my people. And now I am one of them again.

The people who work in my city and in cities everywhere are the champions. Their jobs are not as lucrative as the private sector. They work long hours and deal with tough political positions. But their passion is unrivaled, and they get me. They get me because they are me. They understand the importance of cities and the valuable work they do.

I'm so excited for January 1. I can't wait to walk from my house to city hall and jump in with both feet. I want to be part of making my city better. I look forward to the tough days, the challenging situations, and the fun we're going to have. Let's do this. #LoveLansing

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Scope of It

I've been under anesthesia approximately 30 times. That's as many times as I can remember, but in fairness all the anesthesia may have affected my memory. I had tubes in my ears three times as a kid, another ear surgery in high school, six Crohn's related abdominal surgeries, my wisdom teeth removed, an abscess drained, and more colonoscopies, sigmoidoscopies and endoscopies than I can count. Last week I added to the tally having a surgery to repair my torn meniscus. 

Not running has really zapped my creativity. I use running to think about blogs I'm going to write and to calm all the thoughts rattling around in my head. Instead the last few weeks I've felt anxious about my upcoming surgery. Despite the number of surgeries I've had, having knee surgery made me more anxious than usual. My knee has really been hurting, but what if made it worse? 

It turns out a knee scope is significantly less invasive than any of the Crohn's surgeries I've had. I spent three days on crutches and icing/elevating my knee almost 24/7. I was cautiously able to put weight on my knee a few days after surgery and a week later I am walking, albeit slowly and cautiously. 

I've tried really hard to take it easy and be cautious. I won't be able to wear heels for a few weeks, but I'm hoping to be back to running within six weeks. I'm also hoping to be back to blogging more creatively then too. I miss lacing up my shoes, taking off on a crisp fall morning and sorting through all the thoughts in my head. Five weeks until I'm back in action. Until then...sort of rest.

Wearing running clothes to the polls because real clothes won't fit over my knee.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Everyone is the Avon Lady These Days

Let me start by saying I don't begrudge anyone wanting to supplement their income. I get the appeal of working on sales from home because it's flexible and a convenient way to make more money. But for the love of God please, friends, stop trying to sell me things. It's out of control.

Growing up my mom was pretty anti sales parties. She didn't go to Avon or Tupperware parties (those were the big things back then). I remember her being annoyed by them, and I inherited that aversion to sales parties. I decided years ago that I wouldn't go to these parties. Over the years I've felt guilted by good friends to buy something because they were having a party, but I have very rarely actually attended any kind of sales party. (I've bought from a catalog or online). I cringe at the idea of sitting in a room full of women feeling like I have to buy some makeup/jewelry/cookware that I don't actually need and won't ever use. I'll pass. 

Now with social media it's EVERYWHERE. I can't pull up Facebook without being bombarded to buy LulaRoe, Rodan & Fields, Yunique, Pampered Chef or Beach Body (which out of all of these Beach Body is the only one I'm seriously morally opposed to and would ask now to please stop trying to sell that ridiculous protein shake garbage to me). Now there's also some kid's book one I've been invited to 47 times. It's not so much the actual act of each individual friend selling but the proliferation of it. On our drive home from West Virginia yesterday I stopped counting at 40 (YES 40!) Facebook friends who are selling something from one of these companies. It's out of control. 

Here's some advice from those of us being bombarded with sales requests (or just advice from me...I don't speak for anyone else): do NOT add me to a Facebook group without asking. I will either 1) promptly remove myself or 2) feel guilty because it's a good friend, not remove myself and feel resentful every single time I receive a notification. Also if you add me without asking there is a 100 percent chance I will never buy what you're selling.

I had a friend who did a Facebook LipSense party a few months ago. I tried LipSense in Austin this spring because a friend had it, and I loved it. I had no idea where to get it. My awesome friend simply posted that she was having a party, and to message her if you wanted in the group. I did, and I have since purchased 5 or 6 tubes of LipSense. The approach - not constantly pushing it at me or making it feel like an obligation - totally worked. I have never seen this friend post about LipSense again except in the group to which I voluntarily added myself. That is the only time I've seen it done this way.

I know a lot of people I really love and admire who are selling things, but with dozens of friends selling the same things, it's constant. It's all day, every day. Also it's only something women do to one another.  A few months ago I was at dinner with friends (both male and female) and I was complaining to a female friend about how the selling is constant. The guys were baffled because men aren't constantly selling each other shit. My husband has never, ever received a request to attend a party for some random thing he doesn't need. My favorite quote was my husband's when he said, "It's like everybody is the Avon lady now." It really is. If I'm being honest I feel like Facebook has become a place for me to witness all the pyramid schemes I could imagine. I've hidden a lot of it, but it keeps popping up.These companies are sucking in more people to bombard my social media feeds.

If I want what you're selling, I'll find a way to get it. But for real it's everywhere, and it's making me even more averse to buying anything. If you're selling something I hope you're doing well. I really do. But I'd really like to stop having friends constantly post what they're selling. Can we go back to cute pictures of kids and dogs? Hell at this point I prefer political posts to sales ones. And that's saying something. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

I'll Keep This World from Draggin' me Down

I love the smell of fall: the way the cooler weather, crisp mornings and fallen leaves come together to make a beautiful potpourri. This year's heat has made the arrival of autumn later, but it's still there. As much as I love the warmth of summer, I love the crispness of fall even more. The last few years, however, this time of year reminds me of my dad. It reminds me of emerging from long days in the hospital, my eyes blinking to adjust from florescent light to the brilliant autumn sky. It reminds me of the impossible pain of standing in my closet picking out clothes for my father's funeral. It reminds me that two years ago my son was only 10 months old, barely pulling himself up at Grandma and Pap Pap's house. It reminds me that my dad didn't get to see that amazing little baby turn into a wonderful little boy.

I'm typing this at 3:32 a.m. You you do. I've become a bit of an insomniac of late. My mind doesn't shut off like I need it to these days. And while I am tired during the day, it's actually not that bad. On mornings like this one when I can make myself get out of bed to do something instead of aimlessly tossing and turning I actually feel relatively productive.

About an hour ago my son woke up having peed through his bed. We let him drink too much milk at bed time. We know the culprit and haven't yet done anything to change it. I was almost back to sleep when I heard him laughing. I waited a minute and tiptoed back into his room to find him fast asleep. I do that too: laugh in my sleep. Sometimes I will wake myself up laughing. I'm reminded again that so much of parenting is nurture, and it helps alleviate the heaviness I feel this week.

I realize it's been a shit week on a much larger scale than my sadness. The nation's worst ever mass shooting, the death of a music legend. My dwelling on my sad anniversary and finding out I have a torn meniscus (I'll get back there in a second) is so small in the larger sense of the grief so many are feeling right now. I have so much for which I am thankful, but it's hard not to breathe in the autumn air and feel my chest constrict. 

I could've sworn at some point I wrote a blog titled "I Won't Back Down". Apparently I have not. Maybe it just rattled around in my head and I never actually wrote anything. I'm not a huge Tom Petty fan, but there are several songs of his that I love (that being one of them). Like my dad Petty was 66 when he died. I think of the way his family is feeling, and my heart hurts. I think of the more than 50 people who died in Las Vegas earlier this week. I hate that their families will associate the beautiful late autumn sun with the day their family members died. 

Through grief and loss my outlet has always been running. On this, the second anniversary of my father's death and a shitty week in America, I do not have my outlet. I got a call from my sports medicine doctor yesterday, and an MRI from last week shows I have a torn meniscus. Two months of PT did not do the trick, and I see an orthopedic surgeon next week. On one hand I'm happy to have an answer and ready to have a plan. On the other hand my body is full of pent up energy that is keeping me awake, pounding the keyboard at 3:44 a.m. The insomnia has definitely coincided with my inability to run. No form of low-impact exercise has been able to quiet the chaos in my mind.

I am so grateful for myriad blessings in this crazy life. I am grateful for the 38 years I got with my dad. I am grateful that in times of sadness my family deals with laughter. I am grateful to be so much like my father. I am grateful for perspective in sadness. 

This hurts my heart.
Sunday will be two years without my dad as the head of this family. In a week where so many families are wracked with grief, I hope they find laughter. I hope they find solace in the beauty of autumn. And in a world that keeps on pushing us around, I hope we all stand our ground. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

How to be One of the Boys

Earlier this week I read Amber Tamblyn's piece in the New York Times detailing her struggle in dealing with sexual harassment. It's brilliantly written and spoke to me. While I don't think of myself as a victim it's because dealing with harassment has become so commonplace that I sometimes don't even always notice it. And that is perhaps the saddest point of all.

Tamblyn's op-ed spoke to me. For the last few days I've been thinking of the myriad times in my career in which I've had to deal with inappropriate touching, comments, and uncomfortable situations. It's happened over and over again. I wish I had a manual for how to deal with it. I wish I could tell you I fought back with words every time. Neither of those things are true.

I waited tables and college and became friends with one of the male servers. Once he smacked me on the butt in the kitchen in full view of everyone else. I said, "Hey stop. Isn't that sexual harassment?" He laughed and said not if I liked it. I said I didn't, but everyone laughed. There were no consequences. 

In law school I worked at a law firm. I reported to two junior attorneys, but the managing partner loved me and would sometimes pull me aside to talk. On a regular basis as I was talking to him he would reach out and tuck my hair behind my ear. It still gives me a shudder to think of how intimate that move was. And it was done in the hallway in plain view. Should I have said something? Of course. But I was 23 years old and needed the job. Besides he hadn't really done anything, right? This is a question I would ask myself over and over and over again.

Early in my career I worked for a guy who said, "When men look at something there are three options: eat it, f*ck it, or kill it." I had a man in a position of authority who would discreetly pat me on the hip. When I reported it to someone (another man) who I trusted, I was told nobody would ever believe me.

At that moment, at the age of 25, I decided I'd deal with it differently. I'd face it with humor and laugh it off. I decided I would become one of the boys. Look - I'd be a hypocrite if I told you I didn't contribute to locker room cultures throughout the next 15 years. If I was one of the guys and tossed in the inappropriate humor and jokes it wouldn't be targeted at me. If I let it roll off my back nobody would see when things bothered me. I'm sure I offended others, and for that I'm sorry. I took the line of what was appropriate and sprinted past it all in an effort to not be part of the "problem". I didn't want to be one of these women who complain and are "too serious" and "can't take a joke".

Somewhere along the line, much more recently than I'd like to admit, I have gone in the other direction. I've hit the brakes long before the line of inappropriate, and I find myself cringing and more importantly speaking up when something is inappropriate. I've had young female friends come to me recently for advice in dealing with an inappropriate boss and asking whether to apply for a job working for someone about whom they had reservations. I had a city manager tell me last winter that I was doing a great job mentoring young female managers, and they were taking in everything I said and did. It was one of the best professional compliments I've ever received, and it's a responsibility I take seriously.

I'm nearly 40 years old, and I wish I had all the answers or the perfect response to each inappropriate quip. I told a young friend a few weeks ago that it's not something that will stop happening. Last week I was at a professional event. I had on a new dress that made me feel amazing. It wasn't revealing or inappropriate, but it was flattering. I felt good. Then I had a man shake my hand and kiss me on the cheek (something I still don't appreciate unless I know you well). Then he leaned in and whispered "God you look good. You know it too." It's not the first time this man has made inappropriate comments to me. And I'll sheepishly admit I didn't say anything because I honestly didn't know what to say. These kinds of comments throw me off my game and make me self-conscious and uncomfortable. I probably should have, as my husband suggested, told him to f*ck off. I regret that I didn't because he thinks it's okay. And I'm sure I'm not the only woman he says things like this to. Even a week later I still don't know the right response other than telling him to f*ck off. But like I told my husband I don't get to do that in a professional world where this man is someone I regularly see professionally. 

This is certainly not to say this is every man or even close to it. I hope it's a small minority, but that doesn't make the incidents less real. I have been lucky to work with so many men who respect women. They can have a woman disagree with them without it threatening their very sense of manhood. I've also surrounded myself both personally and professionally with strong women who are a resource for me. Every single one of them has an example of one of these things happening to them. It's not unique to me. And while there's no manual, we can help support one another and surround ourselves with both amazing men and women.

I've decided I no longer want to be one of the boys. I can hang for sure, and if I'm tailgating for a football game or out with friends I absolutely can throw out the most inappropriate comment. But I no longer have patience for it in the work place. Perhaps this makes me a hypocrite because I did for so long, but people are allowed to change. I've been accused of seeing the world only in black and white, and the people who see me this way have never understood me. I am well aware that the world is almost entirely grey (hence why I didn't punch a guy in the mouth last week), and it will continue to be. My grey, however, is broken up by the beautiful sunshine of the awesome women and men with whom I've surrounded myself. And that is how we will make a difference.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Am I a Hipster?

Recently I was complaining about something everyone else seems to like, and my husband said I was such a hipster. At first I was irritated, but then I wondered if he was right? I did a little research in what it means to be a hipster, and it was fascinating. Merriam-Webster defines a hipster as: "a person who is unusually aware of and interested in new and unconventional patterns". This definition does seem to oversimplify the hipster counter culture. While overall I don't think I'm really a hipster (although my sassy short haircut can be fashioned into a wicked man bun), I do often like to shun mainstream things even without necessarily understanding or having experienced them. Over the last week I've been making a list of things that are popular with the mainstream that I don't understand. 

A disclaimer: if you like these things, that's totally okay. This is not a slam on you. Reasonable people can agree to disagree. These are things that I don't understand, but it doesn't mean you can't like them. I had someone recently say that I made people mad with what I wrote in my blog because they didn't agree. I like to vehemently dislike things. It's what I do. I also love to passionately love things. We're all grown ups. We can disagree and like different things. It's okay.

Glasses, check. Man bun, check. 
And now to the things I don't understand:

  • Pumpkin spice lattes, followed by pumpkin spice anything. First I should be honest and let you know I don't like the flavor of pumpkin. Pumpkin spice lattes were charming when they first became a thing. It's one of the first signs of fall. Now I'm bombarded in the grocery store by pumpkin flavored things. It's too much. Too much.
  • Cities everyone else loves. I'm looking at you specifically San Francisco and Austin. And here in Michigan? Grand Rapids. Too shiny. They seem to...finished. They bore me.
  • Musicals. I don't understand them, and with few exceptions I don't enjoy them. I don't even like movies like Mary Poppins. I've never seen The Sound of Music. I have zero interest in it. 
  • Hamilton. It's apparently a musical (which makes me already not like it) with rapping about Alexander Hamilton. The more hype it gets the less I want to see it. This is specifically what made my husband call me a hipster. No I haven't seen it, so I could totally be wrong. But given that 1) I don't like musicals and 2) I generally think if something has this much hype it'll never live up to expectations, I think I'm all set.
  • People wearing headphones everywhere. Why do you need to wear headphones in the grocery store or while you're walking the dog? Maybe just enjoy the world around you.
  • Disney World. I hate theme parks. I hate crowds. And I hate artificial places. I've never been to Disney, and I would be thrilled if that never changes. I may acquiese if Will really wants to go once he's old enough to ask.. But if I'm spending that kind of money on vacation I don't want to spend it surrounded by so much of...America.
  • Shirts with the shoulders cut out. These are a thing. Everywhere. I don't understand why they're so in. I'm kind of baffled by it. We were at a concert a few weeks ago and nearly every woman was wearing one. I asked my husband if they were selling them in the parking lot. And again if they're that popular even if I liked one I'd refuse to wear it.
  • The t-shirt from the vacation you're on while you're on it. I'm not big on vacation t-shirts anyway, but I specifically have never understood wearing a vacay shirt while still on vacation. This also goes for shirts like our senior class shirt in high school.There was zero chance I was going to wear it to school ever, but particularly not the day after they were issued.
  • LuLaRoe leggings. I kind of don't understand this phenomenon of your friends trying to sell you stuff in general, but that's another blog entirely. I have friends who wear the shirts, skirts and dresses, and they're pretty cute. But the leggings? Please, stop. We all know how I feel about leggings in general. Last winter my friend and I took our kids to the science museum. I'm pretty sure every mom there other than us was wearing some hideously patterned legging as pants, and it was shocking. I said to her, "LuLaRoe leggings are ruining America." It's the kind of thing I imagine I'd see at Disney World.
Clearly I am in the minority of not liking the above listed popular things, but it turns out I may be kind of a hipster. Although the internet tells me hipster women generally wear leggings. Now I'm just confused.