Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Sweet Savor of Success Failure

Dear K2 - this post is for you. Sure, I'm guessing there could be something in here that would be beneficial for K1, but I know you need this one most of all. I've been thinking about this for a long time - thinking about how I could teach you a lesson that I haven't yet learned myself. Try - as most parents do - to help you avoid the heartache and trauma I've caused myself over the years. While it's true I haven't figured it all out, I think there is a lot of learning and catharsis that can come from talking about it (or writing, as it were).

Failure. To me the dirtiest F word on the planet. But only for my own self, mind you. I'm incredibly supportive of other people's failures and say all the right and necessary things: "keep at it" "you've come so far" "learn from this and move forward" "some of the most successful people failed first", etc. etc. But I don't allow that type of kindness for myself, because somehow along the way I decided I wasn't worthy of it.

I'm a dyed-in-the-wool, true blue through and through, TYPE A/RED personality. That's in all caps for a reason. One time in college we were separated into personality types and asked to work out a problem, and I quickly became the leader of the Type A group. In other words, in a sea of Type A's, I insist on being the most Type A. I've always owned it - I even confess that some of the 'negative' traits associated with these personalities I view as badges of honor. I love that I'm uptight, hyper-critical of myself, never satisfied and exhaustively bossy and demanding. And if I am being completely honest, I kind of secretly love it when I see it in you too. First off, I get it. And second, I know that it means a lifetime of achievement, wonderful successes and exposing yourself to a great deal of opportunities.

But on the flip side it also means a crushing fear of that F word I mentioned before, and soul-sucking discouragement every time something doesn't turn out exactly as you think it should in your mind.

The problem with this mindset is that I fail more often that not. I lose more than I win, I am weaker far more times than I am strong, I often fall short of those ideals I set for myself on a daily basis. At my age and on a level of logic, I realize this is true of most people. We all have daily goals and aspirations and its rare to meet them all, even half the time. And it's not that I don't expect to fail. It's just that I consider anything less than absolute perfection to be soul-sucking, discouraging failure.

And maybe all of this would be ok, if I wasn't that dang Type A. Which means if I'm not achieving, I'm not living. And so I consistently put myself in the position of being out of my element, with ridiculously high expectations, and the ability to see everyone else's successes and milestones while never noticing a one of mine. And there you are - my wonderful, talented, special and divine 9 year old shadow. Setting yourself up with insane expectations and experiencing soul-sucking, tantrum throwing discouragement when it doesn't go exactly as planned.

What can we do about this K2? How do we help each other? How do we balance a healthy drive to achieve and succeed with the self forgiveness and lesson learning that can come from experiencing defeat? Perhaps it starts like any other weakness we must overcome - with recognizing and admitting there is a problem. Maybe we can find a way to let in those encouraging voices all around us, those ones that tell us that we really ARE making achievements. Possibly we can even redefine what it means to be successful, and understand that success rarely - if ever - means perfection. What I hope, most of all, is that we can help each other feel worthy of kindness.

You and your brother are the angels in my life. You make me recognize my Heavenly Father every day, and having you I have learned what it means to put no parameters or expectations on love. You can't fail me. That must be God's way of teaching me a valuable lesson. If I love you this much, how much more must He love me. And you. And if we're loved that much by the Divine, don't you think we're worthy of it? I know you are. And you know what? I know I am too.

I love you so much. Never stop striving for new adventures, new opportunities, new successes and yes - even new failures. Let's learn together that in the sweet savor of failure we find our choicest blessings.

Friday, September 09, 2011


This weekend marks the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and I thought it would be worthwhile to record some of my memories and thoughts of that wrenching day. This blog is for my children, and I believe its important that they hear firsthand accounts as often as possible, so as to never forget. And I don't want more time to pass before I start to forget as well.

B and I were living just outside of Washington, DC at the time, in the suburb of Alexandria, VA. I normally worked from home - telecommuted with my office that was in San Francisco - and B worked overnights and would sleep during the day. September 11th was a Tuesday, and the weekend before B and I had been in NYC to take in a Yankees game and see the sights. In fact, we even stopped on Liberty island to take pictures with the twin towers in the background. We made it a long weekend and just returned on that Monday back home. The morning of 9/11 was different than usual, as I was heading into DC to meet up with the CEO of my company (Jane) and go together to do a media training for Amnesty International. I got on the train early in the morning and was cut off from all news until I arrived into DC. As I walked into the hotel lobby I saw a bunch of guests crowded around the tv in the hotel bar. Jane hadn't come down yet to meet me, so I walked over to see what they all were watching. I thought it was way too early to be a sporting event, and I couldn't think of any big news events that were taking place that morning.

About that time Jane came downstairs to tell me that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers. She seemed concerned that it could be terrorist related, and a bit distracted by it all. We went up to her room where the Today show was on and started to watch. Just a couple of seconds later we all saw the second plane hit the tower and suddenly we knew that this was no accident and something serious was happening. I don't know how much time passed - it wasn't long but news was coming at such a rapid fire rate it was hard to take it all in. President Bush made a statement confirming that it was indeed a terrorist attack and all of the news outlets were reporting that planes were being forced to land all over the country. They couldn't account for all the planes in the air - some weren't responding to the orders to come down immediately. No one knew how many hijackers there might be, or where they were headed. Somehow we figured out that two planes were still missing, and both were believed to be headed for DC. Jane's hotel was directly across the street from the capital building and we sat there as the news kept flooding in that planes were bound for the capital or the white house. Then we heard a huge blast and the news was reporting a bomb went off at the state center (just a short distance from where we were). Below us we could see all of DC fleeing on foot - they were evacuating all government offices but no one could drive. It was a mass exodus but we were stuck in the hotel not allowed to leave. We had intermittent cell reception but my dad was able to get through and confirm that I was ok and then B called and was insistent that he wanted to come in to the city and get me. This really upset me because they weren't allowing anyone in or out of DC by any mode of transportation and I was terrified that he would get lost from me and we'd never meet up. Once I started to get upset Jane started to lose it, so I quickly sucked it up. She was far away from her family in the Bay area with no idea of when or how she might make it back. We heard about the plane that hit the pentagon (I assume now it was the loud explosion we had heard earlier) and knew that one plane was still out there, headed for DC and most likely the capital building.

In writing this it seems there must have been a long time between all these events, but most of them were near simultaneous - bumping up against each other and shifting our focus from one devastating concern to the next. I don't remember how long we worried about plane #4, but we eventually learned it had gone down in a field in Pennsylvania. In subsequent weeks and years we would come to know a lot about what happened on that United flight #93, but at the time we just recognized that they didn't succeed in getting to DC. In reality there were many great men and women on that flight who made sure that no one else was hurt. I could pause here and marvel at technology and the speed at which information is passed. Granted, much of it was mistaken and fed upon itself in a frenzy of panic, but so much of it was accurate and helpful. If not for the benefit of cell phones and plane phones those people on flight 93 would have had no idea or opportunity to do anything extraordinary. I am grateful that they did. And I am grateful (as I am sure their families are) that they had the opportunity to say some goodbyes.

Much of the rest of the day is a blur to me - we sat transfixed in front of the television listening to report after report. At some point we saw both towers crumble to the ground - pretty much as terrifying as watching the planes fly into them. DC was a ghost town - if you've ever been to that part of the city you know how erie that experience would be. Much like any big city it bustles with activity, but DC has its own energy - its full of purpose and grand illusions and power. It never settles down, is never quiet. It was difficult to see it like that. The trains started running again in the afternoon, and I think I left to go home around 3. The metro didn't stop at the two pentagon stops, but you could see the devastation as we went by and the smoking, gaping hole it left. I remember weeks/months after 9/11 Charlie Sheen made some kind of comment that there never was a plane that hit the Pentagon - that it was all some crazy conspiracy. In later years he would undoubtedly prove his lunacy to the entire world but I pretty much lost any respect I might have had for him after that comment. I saw it with my own eyes, and there was no doubting it. If you've never been to DC you may not realize that a major highway cuts right next to the Pentagon. I thought a lot about those drivers on that highway who experienced the scream of jet engines just over their head and felt the blast and quake of the impact. I'm amazed there weren't more car accidents.

Like most everyone I knew, life seemed to stop for a while in the days after 9/11. Being in PR there wasn't much work to do - no one seemed to care about pitching stories that weren't related to 9/11. And I couldn't take myself away from the news. I don't remember doing a whole lot that week - just sitting in front of the TV transfixed by one gut wrenching story after another. I remember all of the people in downtown NYC looking for their loved ones, begging anyone to help them find them. And I remember the horrible horrible replay of the people who chose to jump out of the 100th story of a building rather than be consumed by the heat and smoke and flames. I remember the heartbreaking interviews with the CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald, who lost nearly all of his employees. He would have died too if not for his child starting kindergarten that day. In fact many people were late to work on 9/11 because it was the first day of kindergarten. I remember marveling at how the terrorists hadn't counted on kindergarten. I remember the bewilderment at how something like this could happen on American soil and why we ignored so many violent warnings in the past decade. I remember all of the heroic stories of first responders who gave so much to try and save as many as they could. I remember feeling united as a country, but united in our suffering and in our sorrow and in our shock. I remember B dragging me out of the house that Friday night because he said all that news watching wasn't good for me.

Now, 10 years later and with the benefit of hindsight, the best lesson I've learned is that the terrorists didn't win. Oh, they struck a mighty blow that scared and wounded us for a time. But what they really wanted to take away from us - where they really wanted to damage us - well they failed miserably. If they were hoping this act would send us terrified and running, they certainly were wrong about that. If they were hoping it would turn us against each other and against our leaders, they were wrong about that too. If they hoped it would crumble us to our knees and weaken the fibers of what we stood for and what we represented, well they were wrong about that too.

Our nation isn't perfect, and it certainly has struggled mightily in the decade that followed 9/11. But I don't fault the terrorists for that - some of that was our own hubris at work. What the terrorists did accomplish was to unify our sense of nationality and to remind us what this great nation stands for and how lucky we are to be a part of it. Most, if not all, of those directly responsible for 9/11 have been found and brought to justice - most of them are now dead.

In the 10 years since 9/11 B and I have gone on to have two beautiful children. We've bought a house, we've been educated, we've held jobs, we've traveled, we've bolstered our economy and we've continued to reach for the American dream. And the same can be said of most people we know. So no, the terrorists did not win then and they have not won since.

And so I will let my children know that THAT is the greatest lesson to be learned by 9/11, and the one we must never forget.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

A Most Meaningful Moment

Today was Fast and Testimony meeting, and for all of you non-LDS people that means it was a chance for members of the congregation to stand up during the main service and bear their testimonies. It's not scripted, and there is no one telling you to go up - its simply an opportunity if you feel so compelled to share your personal thoughts on your faith.

My children love to do this. I'm not sure if they do it because they feel prompted by the Spirit or because they love the limelight (ahem, K2), but I indulge them for two reasons: 1) its something they can do completely on their own and 2) I know that those small, child-like expressions of belief help to solidify their faith and will serve as the building blocks for their future testimonies.

So today, after the service started and the kids realized it was Fast and Testimony, they were ecstatic. They both asked "can I bear my testimony?" and together race walked up to the podium. Their testimonies were typical stuff - I love my Heavenly Father and I know He loves me, I love my family, I know the church is true. When they were done they came back down the aisle beaming at their accomplishment.

Fast forward about 10-15 minutes and I glance over at K2 who had been munching on jelly beans and listening to her friend's mom Emily bear her testimony. She looked up at me and pointed to her stomach as if to say it hurt so I responded with the obvious "quit eating jelly beans". She shook her head and whispered to me that it wasn't that her tummy hurt, it was just that she had such a powerful feeling inside of her and it was making her cry. I asked her to describe the feeling and she said it felt like she should bear her testimony again.

I explained that we really didn't bear our testimonies twice in one meeting, but that she could always bear it again in her heart. And then I tried to explain that what she was experiencing was the Spirit, but she just seemed so bewildered by the powerful feeling inside her. We left the meeting and I took her to the foyer and explained that the Spirit testifies to us of truth, and that when we hear truth and recognize it, it often feels very powerful inside of us - so powerful that the tears are just forced right out of us. It was an odd sensation for her - wanting to cry when she wasn't hurt or scared or mad. So she just laid on my chest and sobbed it all out and I held her, recognizing the power in the moment and how incredibly lucky I was to be sharing it with her.

When she was done she wiped her eyes and asked if we could go back into the service. I took her by the hand and when we sat down she reached for scriptures and read them for the rest of the meeting.

It was, without a doubt, one of the most profoundly precious moments of my life. I am helpless to explain why I have been gifted these two amazing human beings, but sometimes I am in such awe when I study their perfect faces and imagine our forever family that a powerful feeling surges within the pit of my stomach and all my tears are forced right out. And the lesson I just tried to teach K2 comes back to me, full force.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

8 is Enough (for now)

I could talk about how long its been since I last posted (disgraceful!) but I'd rather talk about my firstborn. It's been a big month for him ... he just turned 8, had a fun birthday party and - most importantly - decided to be baptized. Yesterday was the big day.

I now know why mothers rarely take part in the program at these events. Between asking everyone to participate, coordinating the logistics, getting K1 a suit and pictures done and sending out announcements and creating the program, setting up the room and preparing for the lunch afterward I was grateful I didn't have to speak as well. Luckily we had plenty of family to fill those roles.

I was so touched by everyone that came for his baptism - to support K1 in this big step and to support us. We have a very small family in LDS terms, but we are richly blessed with wonderful friendships. It was such a comfort to me to see a full room and know that people went out of their way to celebrate such an important day with us.

I was impressed by how focused K1 was. Typically he's the can't-sit-still, loves-to-be-silly, life-of-the-party type who we are constantly trying to get to settle down and focus. Today he seemed to do that all on his own.

Of course memory being what it is, I don't remember much of what was said. I do remember one part of B's blessing - he said K1 was the type to always find the joy in everything, and that talent would serve him well as he fellowshipped with others and when he serves a mission. I loved that, mostly because its one of my favorite things about K1. He just wants to be happy.

So now that my baby has made such a big, important first step in his own unique and personal relationship with his Heavenly Father I can't help but be both excited and nervous on his behalf. Excited because his future is so bright and I know it will be filled with so many amazing experiences and spiritually enlightening moments. And I'm nervous because his future is filled with twists and turns and sometimes bad things will happen, or sad things or scary things and he'll have to rely on his faith and sometimes that might be all he has to get him through. It's hard when you're reminded that you can't just take their hands and do everything for them.

So for today I will try my best not to stew about all those things that are out of my control, and instead just focus on the beauty and the joy of the moment. I'm proud of K1 and his important choice. I am honored to be his mother and that my own Heavenly Father entrusted me with such an important and joyous job. And I am reminded of my own baptismal covenants and the job I have to strive to live my life in such a way that will demonstrate to K1 how vital faith is to navigating our futures.

I love you handsome. All my heart.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Birthday Blessings

So the thing about you K2, is you sort of sneak up on people. For those who know you well, they'll think that's an odd thing to say. I mean, you're pretty forceful by nature. You're not quiet, you're not shy, you most certainly are not timid. You have a way of making your presence known every where you go. I marvel at how you insist that people notice you. You're not obnoxious or even annoying about it - you're just confident in your conviction that you are worth knowing.

But I'm not talking about any of that when I say you sneak up on people. I've had the privilege of watching you now, for 6 blessed years. And I see the way people are around you - how they clamor for your attention. I see how kids race to give you a hug or sit next to you, I see how their parents call out your name to say hi or how their faces light up when you call out their names. I see how strangers will get lost in conversation with you - sharing all kinds of information and finding little trinkets to give you or small compliments to pay. I see how they want to make you feel as good as you've made them feel. It's all very subtle. It's not that you walk around with a spotlight on you. You're an adorable little girl, but there are lots of those in this world. There's something else - some 'je ne sais quoi' that I can never fully pinpoint but that is as much a part of your being as your hair color or your foot size or your attitude or your spunk. You make people feel good.

You sparkle. You shine. When you direct your attention to those around you they shine as well, and I have yet to meet anyone - young or old, male or female - who is not drawn in by your inexplicable light. You make life brilliant.

And even though its your birthday, somehow I feel like its me that's been given the gift.

Monday, September 27, 2010


If I had a wish for the world, it would be that everyone had a group of THESE WOMEN to hold on to.

THESE WOMEN are reflections of the best parts about me.

THESE WOMEN exhibit all that I am striving to be.

THESE WOMEN are relevant, smart, interesting, beyond beautiful and can't-catch-your-breath hilarious.

THESE WOMEN are kind, accepting and honest.

THESE WOMEN are spiritual giants among men.

THESE WOMEN have created success in family, in work, in friendships, in personal growth, in life.

THESE WOMEN have created a bond that won't ever fade.

THESE WOMEN have only improved over the last 16 years.

Maybe it's silly to keep blogging about these trips and saying practically the same thing, but where would my life be without THESE WOMEN?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I have GOT to blog about our most recent vacation or I am never going to. I've been terrible all summer - we did some amazing things (Royal Gorge, Steamboat, California, Grand Lake, New Mexico) and I didn't blog about a single one. So when my poor children look back on their lives all they will see is ... nothing. I'm terrible.

I did have some great pics on my phone that I was planning on supplementing with the pics on my computer, but alas I dropped my phone in water and had to replace it (second time this year. Yes, I am that person). So, we will have to settle for what was left on my camera and my blog won't be nearly as interesting, colorful or well-rounded. And with that rousing introduction - here we go!

We were blessed with a 4-day school break shortly after the kids started, which was coupled with a weekend, and when our family sees something like that looming at us our family figures out where we can go! This year we decided to head back to Florida for some Disney-flavored R&R. The last time we went to Florida the kids were 2 and 1 respectively, and while we had an awesome time with them, we decided now would be a good time to head back so they could actually have some memories.

Our first day was spent getting to our hotel (Grand Floridian, I highly recommend) and checking out Downtown Disney where we picked up the obligatory Christmas ornament (we get one for all of our trips) and K2 got lost for 3 minutes and she panicked and I panicked and all was well.

Day two we headed to Universal Studios, to check out Harry Potter World. I get this anxiousness inside of me when I am trying to fight a crowd, and let me tell you people - I am good at it. We're fast walkers and we're not timid people, so while still trying to maintain relative decorum we kicked some serious A trying to get to the back of the park before everyone else that was standing in the entrance line made the exact same beeline.

Fortunately it wasn't too crowded - the longest we waited was for the first thing we did - seeing the wand "show" at Olivanders. I put show in quotations because demonstration is probably a better word. It takes less than 5 minutes. Except for the group that went in right before us which took about 30 minutes. Murhpy's Law.

Right after the show they shuttle you into the very cramped store where you can purchase a wand of your own. And by cramped, I mean my walk-in closet that never fits all my clothes feels roomier than this. But the kids were over the moon to get to choose a wand (ahem, the WAND chose THEM) and begin casting their spells.

(Side note: mommy struggle. For months leading up to going to HPW, my kids were insistent on getting a wand and a broom because they were absolutely positively sure they could do magic and fly. I vacillated between wanting them to have this bit of fantasy, and not wanting to see it come crashing down as soon as they discovered the truth. I tried to tell them gently that wands do not do magic - well gently at first until they made fun of me for being dumb and then I got a little more heated in my assertions. In the end they proved me wrong as K2 mastered the "smile" charm where she could make any one smile she pointed her wand at, and K1 mastered the "winguardiam leviosa" charm where employees' items just kept flying up out of their hands. I did draw a line at buying a broom however, as I was not going to figure out a way to make those things fly.)

So after Olivanders and a ride on the Hippogriff roller coaster (K1 and Bryan went on the Forbidden Journey ride but much to K2's dismay she was not tall enough and much to my dismay its a simulated ride which means I get nauseous faster - and neither of the kids were tall enough for the Dragon coaster) we headed over to the Three Broomsticks for a little Butter Beer and Pumpkin Juice. The former tastes like a butterscotch cream soda and the latter like a heavily spiced cider. The kids and I liked both, B wasn't such a fan of the Butter Beer. I recommend getting both in the slushy format rather than straight up. And HPW wouldn't have been complete without stopping in the candy shoppe, where we picked up some chocolate frogs and (we marveled at this later) did not buy Bertie Botts Every Flavored Bean.

So after leaving HPW we headed to the second most exciting place in the park (at least in my humble opinion) Dr. Seuss land. If you know me at all you know I am a HUGE Dr. S. fan and my family is as well. We had fun riding the trolley train through Seuss world with a narration that covers A to Z, and riding the Caro-Seuss-sel where all of the creatures are whimsical and even riding The Cat in the Hat ride (which has always been my least favorite Seuss story and even as a small child, created some measure of stress in me when I read it. Perhaps it was the mess?). We didn't eat at Green Eggs and Ham unfortunately because we had eaten at the Three Broomsticks, but I am confident we would have liked them in the park, in the dark, on the train or in the rain.

The rest of the day was spent seeing the other sites at the park, which were fun and enjoyable as all great amusement parks are, but weren't quite as magical as the first two lands. I only had to deal with two work "emergencies" (side note: what constitutes an "emergency" in my book versus my clients' books are two vastly different things). All in all a great day and we hadn't even begun our Disney adventure.