All I really need to know I learned at book club

It's what's under the covers that counts at book club
It’s what’s under the covers that counts at book club

We gather around 11 carefully considered selections each year.

Sometimes the group weighs in on the choice, as it is a heavy burden to pick correctly. Luckily, like master safe-crackers, we’ve developed a group muscle-memory to cleverly sense and sort through the limitless combinations possible.

“Is it really long? Like more than 300 pages?”
“Is that non fiction?”
“Has Bev already read it?”
“Did Donna choose it? Don’t forget about Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady
and that awful Magus book!”

Every book club has its own charter and its own character. It just so happens that our book club, created 20 years ago, on the charmingly sweet notion of a mother-daughter gathering of hearts and minds, has many characters. And while there is only one matriarchal pair left today, the group –like family– is both disparate in perspectives, experiences and passions and inextricably connected.

I haven’t been in book club all 20 years. In fact, like the names of authors and titles of books I read just weeks or months ago, I honestly can’t remember how many years it’s been since Jan invited me to join. I know it is more than 10 and less than 15. But in that time, I’ve come to realize that I get so much more than a few hours of pleasant socializing and a few minutes of book review each month, I get to learn. In fact perhaps all I really need to know I learned at book club.

Since my memory can’t be trusted to recall it all, and life is too short to think up –or read through– 20 memories, here are the top five lessons I’ve learned in book club:

  1. Eat Bon Bons

The book we read the first time I hosted book club was Housewives Eating Bon Bons. At the time, the title sounded frivolous and book club, too, felt light and breezy. There were no rules on when or how we discussed the book. Even the rules of hosting were simple: the host takes care of drinks and everyone else brings something to eat. No one is assigned salad, entrée, dessert. Just bring what you feel like. And it somehow always works out.

I was maybe six months into book club and starting to sense a pattern to our agenda-less agenda:

  1. Exchange hugs, check out how amazingly cute and well put together all these women are
  2. Check in on each other’s families, kids and grandkids
  3. Nibble and chat about the latest travels. Typically, Jan and 6-20 of her closest friends had just come back from a fabulous cruise.
  4. Chat about upcoming travels. Yup, that would be Jan and aforementioned group of friends, including many in the group: Sue, Vera, Bev, Barbara
  5. Bev looks at her watch, says she and Sue need to leave in 10 minutes for the long commute back to Marin, and we (sometimes grudgingly) turn our animated conversation to the book.

This book was perhaps the first I’d read that alternated narrators for each chapter, allowing the reader to get to know the characters more intimately. And, it explored the complexities and secrets of women’s lives beneath the light and breezy masks we sometimes wear for society.

That night we talked about friendship. About looking out for others, listening beyond the spoken words and outward appearances. We connected with, grieved for, and cheered on the conquests of the characters.

We bit into the metaphorical bon bons, and discovered the centers had more substance, and sustenance, when we explored and took the time to “taste” their relevance to our lives.

  1. Be Present to Your Past

 We are a very privileged group. While we’ve each had our struggles, heartbreaks and hardships, by and large, we’ve been graced with prosperity in love, friendship, health and life. And so many in book club are likewise privileged to have our lives’ tapestry of memories embroidered with threads from each other. Lives shared and cherished –from growing up in San Francisco in the 1950’s or raising families in Walnut Creek in the 1970’s or the 1990’s.

Much of the tremendous privilege we enjoy comes with our collective good fortune to have been born as US citizens. Yet, so much that has happened in this country over those decades has dulled or diluted in our memories. So, it is with book club that we connect or reconnect with a deeper context on our pasts.

Books like The Boys in the Boat and The Orphan Train reminded us of the tenuous connection of families –even some of our own families– under financial constraints of the 1920’s. Or the travail of US citizens imprisoned on US soil during the war—their only crime, their heritage– which we learned about in The Corner of Bitter and Sweet, and The Underside of Joy. The Help and the Secret Life of Bees schooled us in the excruciating dual existence of people living on both sides of the racial divide in the 60’s – a time when some of us were otherwise caught up in raising families in the suburbs or learning to ride bikes on wide sunny cul-de-sacs. The Tortilla Curtain likewise helped us understand the wide gulf of luck and liberty that separates our existence from that of illegal immigrants striving to survive on the other side of our gated communities. And we got a front row seat on the leaders and leadership of our country that had the greatest privilege and most onerous responsibility of all in the book about the US Presidents and their wives.

Revisiting our country’s history, transgressions, horrors and advancements helps put our own histories in deeper context.

  1. Travel the World in Someone Else’s Shoes (or Glasses)

What history class did not imprint in our minds, many book club novels have. Our choices blend the irresistible closeness of an insider’s view within historical context.

We got a look at European life from: the middle ages to the present; from the lowest castes to royalty; from artisans to courtesans; from clergy to despots; and from soldiers to students and Germans to Jews. Our guides include authors of Pillars of the Earth, The Outlanders, The Girl with the Pearl Earring, All the Light We Cannot See, The Plum Tree and The Book Thief.

And we took big leaps from the familiar with exploration of truly foreign experience and perspective from South Africa, India, China, the Middle East and North Korea through on-page witness to atrocities borne with unimaginable hope. Nothing to Envy, The Kite Runner, Little Bee, the Joy Luck Club and Cutting for Stone.

And we even did a shorthand imbibing tour of the ages with Connie’s suggestion: The History of the World in 6 Glasses. Glad that we drink wine and beer freely today – not just to survive dysentery.

Somehow, the global tragedies and triumphs in the daily news seem closer, more accessible and personal with all of this context.

  1. Be Uncomfortable

When I joined book club, there was often talk about the latest “letter” coming from the Sue Grafton mystery series. While we took on a decent range of genres in novels, we tended to stick with the familiar themes on relationships, women, and mystery.

Over the years, we not only began to explore geographies and history, we took an topics that touched a nerve, explored differences, and hit on hard experiences very close to home. These books helped us look a little more carefully—and talk a little more openly—about topics that are very visceral, helping us face being uncomfortable together.

We got both intense and warm-hearted tours inside the minds of those who think differently: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, House Rules, the Rosie Project and Turn of Mind. Thanks to Karen for helping us learn about the tragic disease, Alzheimer’s, with frightening statistics and very personal reference.

Great teacher that she is, Karen also gave us a very vivid pneumonic for the physically and mentally constrained existence of a kidnapped woman raising a child of rape in an 11 by 11 foot space: The Room. We had our entire discussion inside a taped off 11X11 space in her livingroom.

We alternately held our breath and cheered for the child and his family members bravely facing a world behind the eyes of a terribly disfigured face in Wonder.

We explored the line between driving achievement and driving success in parenting when we reviewed The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

We got our sexy on with the poorly written, but nonetheless guilty pleasure of 50 Shades of Gray. If only our own very sexy, daring and never shy Vera who we lost to lung cancer a few years  earlier, would have been here for that review. The conversation would have clearly been a lot less reserved!

And we surprised ourselves when we looked at the personal impacts of being introverted in an extroverted world with our review of the book Quiet. Who would have thought that our fearless leader, Jan, had an ounce of introversion in her sassy, generous, perfectly polished and stylish self?

  1. Be Generous, and the Next Generation will Aspire to Your Legacy

Best of all of my learning from this collection of awesomely inspiring, tremendously caring, wickedly smart, brilliantly witty, effortlessly athletic, intellectually curious, gut-bustingly funny, barrier-breakingly brave, and unfailingly supportive women is one thing: be generous. The generosity of open doors, open minds, open hearts and open arms modeled by the women of the Mother-Daughter book club has set a model that all of those lucky enough to join have learned from each and every month!

Jan, Donna, Beverly, Sue, Barbara, Joan, Karen, Connie, Vera, Barb, and Mardie, I am forever in your debt and honored by your friendship.

Happy 20th Anniversary!

Flying without the seat of your pants

What happens when the seat of your pants ceases to exist?
What happens when the seat of your pants ceases to exist?

Speed: a core ingredient of success in the technology marketing world. Here in Silicon Valley, you need to:  be a quick study; have hair-trigger responsiveness; and learn to make your point in a nanosecond to an increasingly distracted audience of peers, customers and influencers.

And if you are a consultant in this world —surviving on your instincts, context, contacts and flexibility—you sometimes need to fly by the seat of your pants to ensure you meet the speed requirements of your clients.

But what if you discover that the seat of your pants has literally ceased to exist?

Yup, it happened to me this morning.  On route to a new business meeting at 9:40 am, my biggest concern was the one thing you can’t plan for: chemistry. I’d done my homework, read market research, prepped key points and business questions and had a proposal on my iPad.

I’d also given thought to my wardrobe—which in the post business suit world is a social minefield for women— navigating the fine balance of professionalism, function vs. fashion, dowdy vs. trashy, etc.  But I felt confident in my choices:
-Sweater and shoes: fitted and fashionable styles, neutral palette, but still functional enough to walk a mile from the train without heat stroke nor injury,
-Fitted leather jacket: took the edge off the windy 55 degree morning without being an “establishment” suit blazer;
-A few select accessories:  bold designs, yet sleek and good quality silver, and
-A pair of tailored pants: age-appropriate cut and material, and comfortable enough to navigate whatever start-up situation awaited me—bean bag, floor mat or rolling ball chair.

I was on my game with eight minutes to spare if I walked quickly.

What I was totally unprepared for: a  nasty “wardrobe malfunction.”

It started innocently enough. “Excuse me, Miss, I thought you might prefer hearing this from a total stranger,” said the handsome business man walking up from behind me. “It appears that the back of your pants has…um…come undone.”

Aghast, I felt the backside of what I’d thought was a flattering pair of trousers, to find a gaping—and growing— hole at the seam. “Oh, no! I am on my way to an interview!” I managed, incredulous at my predicament.

“I’m sorry, perhaps I shouldn’t have told you,” offered the kind man, who had been following  behind a demure, age-appropriate pair of gray pants with a peek-a-boo swatch of silky bright orange panties competing for attention.

It was my very own Bridget Jones moment.

With a ten minute walk still ahead of me, I had to come up with a plan:
a. try to buy a pair of appropriate pants (requiring a 15 minute wait for the closest stores to open) and call the client to request we start the meeting half an hour late, or

b. attempt to cover my blooming backside with my (well selected, outfit-coordinated) bag, and back into the room, praying that the act of sitting down didn’t blow my cover.

Flabbergasted, I decided to keep moving toward the meeting and option B.  For peace of mind, I called my husband.  “What would you do?”  After he remarkably swallowed at least three inappropriate scenarios that jumped to his creative mind, he suggested: “Tie your jacket around your waist, march in there and let them know that you are dedicated enough to their business to overcome a wardrobe challenge.”

As I contemplated tying the bulky leather jacket, unable to help himself, he added: “Or, buy a gray Sharpie to replace the orange panties.”

Three blocks and seven minutes from the meeting, I found a new lifeline, Siri.  “Women’s clothes near here.”  Miraculously, she served up the Levi’s store, directly across the street from my meeting—and even more fantastical—open at 9 am instead of 10. I jogged the last block, well aware of the refreshing breeze, and dove, laser-focused through the door. A lovely salesperson asked if I needed help. “Oh, yes, this is a retail emergency!” I gave her my details and requirements and she yanked two pair of jeans from the hundreds folded on the wall display.

I must’ve done something kind somewhere in my past: the first pair fit. Perfectly.

Two minutes later, I strode into my meeting, on time, with a slightly bulging briefcase filled with great ideas, strategy and a pair of butt-less pants.

No one was the wiser. I got the job.

I haven’t worn Levi’s since high school.  I am now a brand champion for life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jury Duty: Inconvenience, Truth and Opportunity

Scales of Justice
Scales of Justice

Six hours after I checked in for jury duty today, I made it to the jury room along with the suburbs’ best approximation of the American melting pot.

Judge Judy (really, that is her name) opened with: “Jury Duty is both instrumental to our American system of justice and an inconvenience to nearly every juror.”

Yup.  But if you are remotely fascinated by anthropology, jury duty is a treasure trove of ideas, ideals and “who’da thunk” insights on the human species in your corner of the world.  A few observations from today:

The Generation Gap Filler.
How long would it take you, if forced to sit right next to a complete stranger of a vastly different generation, to strike up a conversation? A friendship?

In our shared nine hours, I participated in, and witnessed many pleasant conversations, but one I overhead fascinated me the most.  Likely the very youngest and the very oldest juror each shared a row in the antiseptic waiting room and began a conversation so engaging, that I admit to ditching my new book club read to eavesdrop.

The octogenarian opened the gambit with a seemingly oddball question to the college boy next to him about whether he studied Daniel Boone in school… One thing led to another and the two engaged in a verbal tennis match of observation and follow-up questioning that covered:

1. Innovation:
Serve:  college boy snapped a selfie of the two of them to exhibit the speed of social          media and innovation of the iphone.
Return: elderly man. “Well I’ll be darned. That’s us! Steve Jobs was definitely an
innovator, even if he didn’t invent the phone, the camera or the computer. But do
you know the only president to have a patent? Abraham Lincoln for an inflatable
bellows patent that was secured in 1849 for use to raise river boats  stuck on a sand
bar…

2. Fact Checking:
Serve: elderly man. “Did you know Madam Curie won two nobel prizes, one of which she shared with her husband? And I have my own connection with great thinkers: I once had a science class with Albert Einstein’s great niece–and beat her best scores!”
Return: college boy. “Wow, when was Albert Einstein alive again?”
Volley: elderly man. “He lived to his mid 60’s I think. I believe he was born March 14, 1879…”
Deuce: college boy. “Want me to check on my iphone? Oh, this says he was born March 15, 1879.”
Advantage out: ” Well, I’ll be darned. How’d I miss a day?”

This pair sought one another out during breaks and picked up their educational exploration –and blossoming friendship–right where they’d left off . It was hard not to follow them and tune in to see how many times the Grandfather might just trump Google…

The Inequity of Justice
An hour after everyone was seated and the Jury director was wrapping up orientation instruction to a room full of 200 plus prospective jurors, a woman in a friendly-colored summer pastel cotton outfit, swept into the room, towing a quiet young man.

They sat and listened for about a minute, until the director asked if there was anyone in the room she hadn’t called from her list.

“You haven’t called this young man!” Shouted the woman, clearly aggravated.  “He got a jury summons; that was clearly your error. He has Down’s Syndrome.”

The director apologized and offered to speak with the woman separately in 5 minutes after she dispatched this group to the jury room where a  judge was waiting.

There could have been a million reasons why the situation unhinged the woman. Certainly, a misdirected jury summons–yet another paperwork reminder of the injustice of her son’s human experience–set the wheels in motion.  “I WILL NOT WAIT! AND, I DO NOT APPRECIATE THAT YOU ARE BLATANTLY WASTING MY TIME,” countered the woman, who likely spent the majority of her mothering years having to become increasingly assertive in advocating for her child, against the tide of society’s inequities.

Sometimes there is no right and wrong when it comes to rights of the wronged.

Running The Selection Inquisition: Balance of Sensitivity and Humor
The jury selection process is particularly fascinating, to have a front row seat to learn the backgrounds and biases of 18 total strangers. But it is a dicey business to socially undress a dozen people in front of a roomful of strangers. It takes a special touch to be the judge and have the job of  drilling–in a two minute group interview– into the impact of a father’s alcoholism or a spouse’s violence on a person’s ability to be an impartial judge of character on a jury.

This judge used plain speaking and a little humor to set the context; and she did it well. To set context she told the “underwear story” about a man who, 25 years after his underwear was stolen from a public laundromat (and the thief never tracked),  still held the view that all police were uncommitted to do their jobs well–and solve all reported crimes. “Are you,” she’d subsequently ask each of the 18 seated juror candidates,  “the underwear guy?”

She was also quick to show her own bias: as the long day drew to an end, without a jury fully selected, she asked for final questions.  One man –still in the back up group in the gallery–stood up and offered to take the place of anyone seated so far in the jury box, claiming he was keen for the opportunity to participate in the process for the first time. Without pause, Judge Judy shot back: “Remember what I said at the beginning about inconvenience? We tend to be suspicious of anyone who volunteers to be here.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you trap an elf today?

You know me. I’m the one in your yoga class that the instructor is addressing when he asks anyone that has a noisy mind, to kindly empty it out and just focus on their breathing.

I’ve always taken perverse pleasure in my ability to multi-task; to always have an updated to-do list top of mind; and –to my husband’s great dismay- to be poised at any hour of the day to helpfully complete a speech, a paper, a story, or even a sentence for anyone at a momentary lack for words.  I wake up caffeinated and ready to charge into each day.

But this year I have the opportunity to slow down for a bit. To take stock and think about breathing in my life a bit more fully, consciously and slowly.  I’m truly enjoying long conversations, beautiful California vistas from bike, hike and kayak vantage points, and more time with the people I love and admire.  And, I am reveling in the time to really look at the experiences that color my existence: finding little moments of kindness or beauty, or whimsy that light up a day.

Today, I strolled a path that I’ve only biked on previously.  A lovely dappled-light Spring afternoon set the dreamy backdrop for my walk, where I spied things that I’d completely missed in the past,  likely too busy thinking of my task list.

First, a full neighborhood of quaint birdhouses.  Brightly colored and creatively crafted, two dozen sweet homes were tucked amidst a copse of branches, literally off the beaten path of the nearby bike trail.

Birdhouse neighborhood.
Birdhouse neighborhood.

At my house, we have a new family of tiny wrens chirping away in a birdhouse our son built 10 years ago in grade school, propped up on our chimney base.  This is the first year I’ve stopped to notice the momma swooping in with offerings to the tiny chorus members nested inside. Fun to imagine all of the growing families ensconced in this hidden village of houses.

Next, was a flight of fancy.  A sunny collection of flowers caught my eye.  Upon closer inspection, the pink Gerbera and purple Hyacinth were part of a tableau, accompanied by a moss-lined and coin-topped treasure box and a sign that read: “Trap the Elf”.  And, just a few feet away, a tiny wooden door had been built in front of the trunk of a tree–ostensibly the Elf’s woodsy home.

Whimsical moment: Trap the Elf!
Whimsical moment: Trap the Elf!

These sweet, whimsical moments made me grateful. Grateful for the afternoon. Grateful for the families that had lovingly painted little corners of the world with their creative expressions. Grateful for the memories this sparked of my family’s magical moments. Grateful to clear my mind and breathe. Deeply.

 

Persuasion: Art, Science or Pride-free Experimentation?

Marketing challenge: persuading a dog past fresh spring grass.
Marketing challenge: persuading a dog past fresh spring grass.

Beyond my profession as a marketer, I draw on  skills for persuasion daily in my other roles: as a a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sibling, a neighbor, a friend, a volunteer and a pet owner.

An incident yesterday got me thinking about the ingredients of effective persuasion.   When you mix all of the art and science tricks in your repertoire to no avail, how far are you willing to reach to help cajole someone to change their thinking or take a different course of action?

Case in point: persuading a 14 pound dog to run around a 3 mile lake.

No brainer, right? Wrong.

Understandable challenge if the dog is old, overweight, arthritic or ill. Or maybe just lazy or unwilling to brave an unseasonably cold, rainy or hot day.  But, what if  there is no reasonable reason?

In marketing speak, my dog was already a satisfied “customer” that I was sure would be an easy “renewal”. She already loved our daily runs in every conceivable venue from mountain trails to beaches to neighborhood sidewalks and even across the noisy new span of the Oakland Bridge with a zillion lanes of traffic. And her Net Promoter Score (customer satisfaction) was off the charts: she cajoled every other dog–and even tried with a few cows, deer and turkey–to come and run with us.  So I thought I was good judge of her overall customer experience, level of engagement and willingness to respond favorably to an adjacent offer.

As we hopped out of the car at the lovely local reservoir on a stunning, sunny afternoon (in a small window of time between kid sports), I was comfortable that I was backed up with my time-tested communication tools to see me through a successful experience:

1. A leash and one word: “run?”  This does the trick 99.99 % of the time and is equally, efficiently effective for trips to the beach, jogs in the neighborhood, and adventures across miles of open space trail running.

2. Occasionally, there is a need to pull out the big guns: “treat?” Which brings the girl back, boundingly, across hillsides, from muddy ponds, and even tantalizing explorations of a hillside brimming with squirrel holes.

And then the inexplicable happened. My ever-ready running friend and ally stopped. Cold. She was suddenly, maniacally consumed with a grass-born OCD.  Each and every blade of grass along the trail now needed her personal triage: to be sniffed then methodically sorted into a to-be-eaten or to-be-peed-on classification.  Every single blade.

Amused, I watched carefully,  determined to understand her motivations and needs. About 5 minutes and 89 blades of grass into this, I engaged her with a little “campaign prompt” about how much better her experience might be with a change of venue.

She gave me the doggie version of an email unsubscribe. Not interested.

Then I tried proving the clear value of my customer service –and without her asking– I picked her up and carried her for a while, free of charge.  When I put her back down to let her test the new experience for herself, she balked.

GE’s CMO, Beth Comstock recently said in a keynote address to a roomful of marketers, that the ultimate skill of marketing is “to fly well in the fog.”  And even though everyone else out on this glorious day at the reservoir was indulging in 75 degrees and a bright sunny sky, I realized I’d run a-ground (or a-grass) in the fog.

Cajoling (“run?”) and bribery (“treat?”) were not working.  Then, I tried the toddler- tested skill: distraction (“see the squirrel?”). Finally,  the signal in the noise! She temporarily dropped a blade of grass from her mouth and looked up for a furry plaything…  Buoyed by that momentum, I tried again: “Oh! Let’s go find that squirrel… I see it over there, let’s chase it!”  She jogged 10 steps, then sniffed out my totally over-hyped promise. And went back to her fascinating weedy triage.

Flabbergasted, and with the carpool clock ticking in my ears, I made one more desperate attempt.  A bit of a high-wire act for me to attempt on a deadline and in front of dozens of happy, sun-drenched exercisers. But desperate times…

A little shyly, I tried the first one in a suitably high pitched tone: “blah-dahl, lah-dahl, lah!” My dog stopped her 312th pee and looked up, warily.  So, empowered, I let it rip, full-throated with no pride left to protect and a deadline to meet: “BLAH-DAHL, LAH-DAHL, LAH!” She was transfixed, alert, attentive to my every movement–we were on the hunt! She and I could both see and smell them in our imaginations–a gaggle of ungainly, opinionated turkeys.  I’d reached her actionable core, and it was time to make my move to persuade the ultimate action–a full out run around the 2.99 remaining miles of this lake loop.

And so there I was, the fearless, feckless marketer,  delighted to have hit on the magic elixir that persuaded my pint-sized canine to change course and try a new action.   Loudly doing my best turkey imitation: over and over and over, past every single blade of grass.

 

 

 

 

 

Buoyancy at a Career Crossroads

I’ve built my career as a wordsmith.  As a marketing professional, words are core to my craft. I love to collect them, to connect them and run my mind across all their direct, nuanced and euphemistic possibilities.

Over the past few months, as I’ve explored my next career move, I’ve had to explain myself with words: in resumes, during interviews, in application forms, on LinkedIn, in 140 character Tweets, etc.

Once, I was even asked to choose the one word description that close friends, my husband or colleagues would pick to describe me.  Intrigued, I actually asked. Here’s who I am to others cornered with this socially-awkward request (you can guess which one might be the spousal reply): Honest. Smart. Creative. Caring. Demanding. Fun. Energetic. Persistent. Engaging.

And, as I consider becoming a consultant and starting my own business,  I’ve asked myself for the words that best describe my values, my mission, my aspirations and my “freak factor” that sets me apart from others.  I feel stymied and even shy about applying words to myself, a bit like trying on a bikini in a brightly-lit dressing room.  I am tuned to inspect, interpret and cultivate stories for others, their business models, their products, their visions.

But yesterday, at the beach, I caught a moment that captured my imagination. One I’ve been mulling ever since.

A solo swimmer, 30 yards from shore, relentlessly, effortlessly, exuberantly sliced through the water, again and again, to catch and hitch a ride amidst the gentle waves.  A perfect, 75 degree sunny day had snuck in, unannounced to weathermen nor Spring Breakers, leaving the wavy playground  to him and no more than a three dozen other people along this long stretch of Stinson Beach coastline. And he was clearly oblivious to anything but the joy of the surf.

As I watched him repeat his dance — slicing forward, darting beneath a wave, cresting the surface to turn and ride another one in– I noticed something else.  Not six yards away, every time the swimmer ducked under a wave, another head popped to the surface to observe him. It was a harbor seal.

boy and seal

The hide and seek game lasted for about seven rounds of body surfing. The seal successively and successfully dipping beneath the water just as the boy turned to glide back in. Then, the water unexpectedly calmed. Boy without plaything, seal without cover, the two emerged simultaneously, serendipitously, mere yards apart.  They each stopped, looked unflinchingly at the other, as the sun glinted off their two dark, wet heads. Just as quickly, the next wave brought them back to their respective missions.

That energy, curiosity, playfulness, openness, boldness and purposefulness was all empowered by one thing: buoyancy.

Any object, wholly or partially immersed in a fluid, is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the object.

— Archimedes of Syracuse

I recognized, in that moment, the word that captured and connected my mission and my passion: to create a level of buoyancy in marketing storytelling. To enable ideas to push up against the weight of market pressures, distractions, and apathy with an unflinching vibrance and purpose.

Thanks to those swimmers, the sunshine and Stinson beach. I am propelled forward.

 

 

March Madness: Brides, Birthdays and the Portable Office

In a world where your office can be anywhere, how fun is it to constantly change your desk?
In a world where your office can be anywhere, how fun is it to constantly change your desk?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the first time in 19 years, our family’s Spring break broke this year.  Okay, maybe it was just me. And I guess it was really more of an uncomfortable contortion, than a break.

This is our inaugural year as 1/2 nesters, proud parents of two freshmen: one in college and one in high school.  To underscore the dichotomy, their respective schools delivered separate–but equal–spring break schedules.  Exactly one week apart from each other.

Add to that, a few key milestone events: the week before break was the wonderful, inspiring celebration of my 73-year-old mom’s marriage. And the following week was our daughter’s 15th birthday.

The final touch: a  little real-time work/life rebalancing as my husband and I test drive the concept of two separate consulting businesses: same house, different specialities, different clients and different home office spaces.  A lot of uncertainty and many spinning plates, but off to a promising start.  That is, until one of those office spaces — the sunny, quiet and recently-converted guestroom/office that I have claimed–reverts during college break to a temporary teenage hibernation vortex.

So, with wistful memories of last year’s Spring break road trip down the California coast, filled with kayaking, biking and even dune riding on ATV’s, we all agreed to a plan-free, play-it-by-ear spring break season, 2014, anchored between a bride, two clients and a birthday.  What I didn’t anticipate was my own long, strange trip within the walls of my home:  in a quest for the consultant’s holy grail, a private spot with working computer and phone charger.

In one tragi-comic four hour span –with a bylined article deadline looming and two conference calls set right in the middle– I went from:
-Temporary squatter’s rights in my husband’s well-appointed den for an early morning conference call,  until his pending video editing deadline got me booted to the
family room table, where I wrote 3 marvelous paragraphs of copy until heart-warmingly rare sibling bonding over a video game prompted me let them savor the sweet shared moment of digital assassinations.  So, I stole away to the briefly-abandoned, darker and messier
office/hibernation vortex for about 45 minutes, before said college boy reclaimed it for his internship project and like a pinball, I went reeling back to
-the family room table where, in the blissful post-assassination quiet, I discovered that our very old Mac desktop was vomiting a trail of gray pixels wherever I moved the mouse, burying unsuspecting files and tool bars alike in its wake of gagging, gasping health.

Apparently, I must have emitted a bit of gagging and gasping myself, as my husband soon came downstairs without a word, crashed around in the garage for a few minutes, then disappeared upstairs, arms full, for some more scraping, crashing mayhem. Five minutes later, he collected me, a functioning laptop and an armful of cords, keyboards and accessories and deposited me into my new office: a folding picnic table set up in our bedroom.

Voila! A genius move.

Just as I got re-acclimated and finished the first page of my article, my lovely college boy peeked a look around the door. “Hey, that’s cool! Look at all that space! Can we trade desks?”

Suffice it to say that my son is back at college today, and the sweet little red writing desk that I assembled myself, stands unused in his recently vacated room, awaiting our reunion. But for now,  on this cold rainy April Fool’s eve,  I am content here at the big plastic picnic table in my bedroom.