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Hoop dancing down memory lane…

August 27, 2009 Leave a comment

The gods overseeing the Tiny Prints Gratitude Challenge must have been conspiring, arranging a meeting between myself and my long lost friend Janet for a while…  Day 4 of the Challenge asked that we see the good in something “negative”.  Day 6 asked that we connect with someone we haven’t in a long time.  Re-uniting with Janet was meant to be, helping me meet both challenges.

A few days ago, some unexplained bug on Facebook caused me to inadvertently spam EVERY single person I have ever corresponded with via email, inviting them to “check out my photos” on Facebook.   I mean everyone.  My mortgage broker, CEOs from companies I interviewed with once in the past, ex-boyfriends…!  I can’t overstate my embarrassment and subsequent episode of anxiety attack.   Out of the disaster did come some good.  I did pick up some Facebook friends as a result, all actually from people  I had meant to invite anyway.   But there was one reply that surprised me.  From Janet.

Janet was my very first hire back in my ad agency days in New York over a decade ago.  We worked together during the day.  We hung out at night.  We walked down the streets of Manhattan buzzed on cosmos (it was the 90s after all) and picked out cute guys to talk to for each other.  We were inseparable for a while.  Then life took us in different directions.  Janet continued to live the glamorous life in New York and Shanghai, while my path took me to settle down  in suburban mommyville.   In Janet’s email she said that she happened to be in the Bay Area and wanted to meet up.  I jumped at the opportunity.  We met tonight and caught up on a decade of life over wine and biscotti.  I so enjoyed hearing about Janet’s adventures, her career as a marketer, pilates instructor, and now most impressively a hoop dancing teacher. The evening ended with us in my yard, me  hula hoop dancing to her instructions.  It was the most fun the Fieler household has seen on a school night in a while (ok, at least since last Tuesday’s lu’au.)

After Janet left, I got to thinking about how much I cherished our brief time together tonight.  I almost felt as if I got a little piece of my self back.  For a couple of hours, I felt I was back in my 20s skin again– the sense of embarking on an exciting adventure to Destination Unknown, the wide-eyed optimism for what my future held, and the zest with which we just pursued pure fun, tonight in the form of hoop dancing…  Ironically, reconnecting with Janet also made me realize that at the core I am still that very same person I was a decade ago.  This realization made me smile inside.   It rekindled a spark that I now promise myself to keep alive.

So tonight I am grateful for old friends.  Old friends hold the magical power of bringing back bits of yourself that you may have forgotten are part of you.  How wonderful is that?!

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Categories: Uncategorized

Week One Re-cap: Beauty, Love and Magic

August 25, 2009 1 comment

I have been following the Tiny Prints Gratitude Challenge for seven days.  I haven’t found the silver bullet to a new and improved life yet.  I still have dark circles under my eyes from lack of sleep.  My kids still don’t have play dates and fun activities lined up for the rest of the summer.  My inbox still reads “103 unread” emails though I just got it down to “0” at 1am last night.  One of our cars still has a big dent from a fender-bender that happened on April 17…

But I do have something to show for.  Three words.  Beauty.  Love.  And Magic.

Beauty.  These little gratitude exercises my team designed, and the very act of naming my blog and writing these posts, raised my antenna for beauty.  Consciously or subconsciously, in the last seven days I have begun to look for it everywhere.  There is the obvious.  My daughter’s impish grin, the dahlias at the farmer’s market, the gusto with which my four-year-old tosses a water balloon, Cecilia Bartoli singing Mozart arias…  Then there’s the not-so-obvious.  The beauty that comes from contrast and from finding the silver lining in the process.   Living the trade-offs between career and motherhood (previous post), battling loved ones’ serious illnesses (maybe future post), and aching so deeply for something long ago lost (maybe never a post)…  The conventional wisdom of “you find what you look for” held true the last seven days.  The Challenge asked me to look for good and negative things to appreciate every day.  And I found more beauty in the process.

Love.  This has been a by-product of The Challenge.   Sounds totally sappy I know.  And probably makes me lose credibility with anyone from work who reads this post.  But this is the honest truth. In the past seven days, I have become more aware of how much love surrounds me.  Though my kids are two and four-going-on-five, we’re still working through separation.  No goodbye of any type takes fewer than a good 10 minutes at our house, with kisses, hugs, hearts, “nonnies” (Eskimo kisses) of every variety each performed at least a few times by each kid.  This ritual used to make my blood pressure rise a little bit.  In the morning my heart would be already in the office as I got ready to walk out the door, worrying about being late for my first meeting.  At kids’ bedtime my heart would be with the hubby who might be waiting with a glass of wine on the couch…  I would always be living in the next-moment.  But in a conscious effort to appreciate, I’ve had to try to ignore the next thing and just focus on appreciating.  So I revel in those kisses, hugs, hearts and “nonnies”.  I sing a couple of extra lullabies.  I snuggle a few minutes longer at every opportunity.  And I found so much more love that was already there…

Magic. There’s a level of naivite in the premise of this whole gratitude exercise.  I see so much implicit hope, optimism and appreciation twinkle in my kids’ eyes.  Everything is magical.  But with age, skepticism developes as we pile on layer upon layer of “stuff” that dim the twinkle in our eyes.  The Gratitude Challenge has demanded that we strip away some of those layers and show some vulnerability.  You have to admit that sharing these seemingly sappy sentiments takes courage on my part.  But I guess it’s worth it if it restores some magic in the proces.  I feel my eyes twinkle more often now with hope, optimism and appreciation as I find more beauty and love in my life.

Seven days.  Three words.  No new and improved life.  But who needs it when you find the beauty, love, and magic that’s already there?

Categories: Uncategorized

Day Four: Can Career & Motherhood Co-exist?

August 21, 2009 3 comments

Day four as a blogger and I am already getting rambunctious, wanting to tackle the big hairy issue of career and motherhood, work/life balance or lack thereof.  I know this topic is an explosive land mine…  Yearning for an answer a couple of years ago, I posted an entry on the Palo Alto Menlo Park Mother’s Club forum titled “Is it really impossible to “have it all”?”   I was surprised (and not surprised) to receive close to 100 impassioned responses to my post within a couple of hours.  I know I’ve hit a nerve.  As you can imagine with any highly personal topic, there was a diversity of views.  However, out of the 100 or so of responses, only a couple of women thought that it was possible to “have it all”.  Most thought that the price would be too high to pay, or that you could have it all but just not at the same time.  Further, regardless of which side of the fence the women who wrote me sat, they felt judged by others for their choice.  But at the same time, they are aware and apologetic that they are judging others for their choices.

So why stir up this land mine again…?  For those of you who have read my previous posts, you know that I am participating in Tiny Prints’ 21-Day Gratitude Challenge. Today is Day Four of the Challenge, and my task is to think about something “negative” and write a message of “thanks” for it.  You see where I’m going…?  For the most part, I am pretty happy with my life.  I’d have to struggle to find any major negatives that doesn’t come across as whiny…  If there’s something legitimate that I could want (see, this gratitude exercise is already working, I’m focusing on what could be vs. what isn’t!), it would be having more time and energy to devote to motherhood while still enjoying my challenging and fulfilling new job at a start-up.

See, herein lies the challenge.  How do I give thanks to lack of time to spend with my kids, who mean more to me than anything else in the whole wide world???

I could take the easy route and say “it’s about the quality of time you spend together and not the quantity”, but the truth of the matter is that there are days when I’m so tired from work that all I could do is go against the collective wisdom of child rearing experts and just turn on Sesame Street for the kids.  And then there was the one time (swear it only happened once) when I fell asleep sitting next to them on the couch after a long day in the office.  The tug between what I think a great mom should or would do vs. the reality of what I could or did do gnaws at me constantly.  How do I give thanks to it?

A mentor of mine once made a comment to me that probably changed my whole outlook on this issue.  She said, “if you’re choosing between either vs. or, you’ll never solve for the and.”  So I guess the first thing I’m thankful for is asking the question that feels right for me.  I don’t claim to have an answer yet, but I no longer feel cornered as I once did.  There is a lot of power to feeling this way.

I am also thankful this journey has taught me that for me work/life balance is about balancing passions and not hours.  I have learned what’s truly important to me vs. what I once thought was but really isn’t important to me (i.e.,  home cooked meals, furnished house, or a working light-bulb in every socket…)   Most importantly, this journey has forced me to think hard about what would really make a difference in how my kids turn out.  I admit that I’m not always so zen about it.  At least once a day I still feel a mini pang of anxiety that my kids won’t be the popular ones in school because I won’t be there to fill their schedule with play dates, or that they won’t be well-adjusted socially because I never got around to signing them up for swimming lessons or tennis camp…

Finally, with the exceptions of those rare instances I quoted two paragraphs above for dramatic effect, I really do cherish my time with the kids so much more.  In the time we have together, I try hard to impart values that are important to me, such as sitting down for family dinner every night, or starting a gratitude journal with my four-year-old to chronicle everything we’re grateful for every day.  I feel great about the choices I’ve made, and as a result I hope I’m giving them a role model of following your passions and being fully engaged at what you choose to do.  And for all this I’m grateful.

Categories: Gratitude Challenge

These are a few of my favorite things… (from A to Z)

August 19, 2009 3 comments

After I resolved to not beat myself up for my “constructive discontent” tendencies last night, today was just what I had hoped a day in Zone Gratitude would be…  I knew what today’s challenge was going to entail (make an A to Z list of things I’m grateful for), and in strange ways, the anticipation of writing this blog entry tonight had altered the lens through which I experienced today and its events.

So what’s different?  I paid attention.  I found myself going through the day with greater alertness, savoring each moment as if evaluating, “I wondering if S is for singing Hush Little Baby Don’t Say a Word?”  And thus, the details of the day took on extra vibrancy, as if I was living La Vida Kodak Chrome.  I guess that is the intent of the Tiny Prints Gratitude Challenge, to help me become more present and see the “red wheel barrows” in my life, right?

With no further ado, here’s a list of things from A to Z that I am grateful for, inspired by the events of today…

A is for Abracadabra (the way my four year-old says it as he entertains a crowd of my friends with his magic tricks)

B is for Blogging (if you’re reading this you can see I’m kind of into it now, though it’s only my 3rd entry)

C is for Chubbiness (my two-year who still has it in sweet abundance)

D is for Don Draper (finally got around to watching Season 3 premier tonight)

E is for Egg Cooker (do you own one?  it will change your life)

F is for Fuschia (my secret feel-good color)

G is for Good Night Moon (just say “In the great green room” and it transports me to a special place)

H is for Hubby

I is for Israel Kamakawawi’ole singing “Somewhere over the Rainbow”

J is for Jazz playing in the background as I write this entry

K is for Kisses (the kids shower me with them for a good five minutes before I leave for work every morning)

L is for Lu’au (had so much fun hosting a lu’au party for the Tiny Prints Marketing Team)

M is for Mai Tai (see “L”)

N is for Nanny (our kids love her as if she is part of our family; I’m grateful for how she takes care of all of us really)

O is for Open Office Environment (so lively and full of opportunities to interact spontaneously and eavesdrop)

P is for Pork Kalua (ok, ok, it’s Kalua Pork, but it’s also 12:36am)

Q is for Q-Link (you know who you are, don’t laugh, it works)

R is for Ruffle Skirts

S is for Summer (the weather couldn’t have been more perfect this evening)

T is for Tiny Prints (I know I’m lucky to work for a company whose products I have long adored)

U is for Uncluttered House (had to clean it up for the Lu’au party; feels so good to be rid of clutter!)

V is for Voila! (stumped here so I googled “beautiful words that start with “V” and like the first result!  Viva SEO!)

W is for Watermelon prints on my daughter’s jammies

X is for X-factor (only compelling word I can think of starting with X…)

Y is for Yard (so much time spent there and so many happy memories in our own backyard)

Z is for Ziploc bags (yumm…  so much leftover Lu’au food for the rest of the week)

Now, that was so much fun!  What a great way to end the day.  Much to look forward to tomorrow.

Day One: Battle of Constructive Discontent vs. Gratitude

August 18, 2009 3 comments

Day one of the Tiny Prints Gratitude Challenge.  The task seemed easy enough.  Sign the gratitude pledge (below) and publicly commit (this post):

“With a hopeful outlook, I, Anna Fieler, promise to fulfill the terms of the Gratitude Challenge.  Over the next 21 days, I pledge to complete the activities in my Gratitude Challenge Kit, including blogging, taking photos, writing journal entries and connecting with friends.  I promise to take note of life’s little blessings and give thanks for the relationships, experiences and opportunities that make my life unique.  From this day forward, I commit to living on the brighter side of life. (Signed and dated today.)

At first, I thought this gratitude challenge is going to be a piece of cake.  My glass is always half full.  I like to think of myself as being blessed with a sunny disposition.  And after two years of practicing meditation and other new age teachings, I’d like to think that I’m pretty present, and that I practice what I preach, finding the “red wheel barrows” in every scene.  I really thought I would just breeze through the 21 days writing about the aching beauty of my 2-year-old’s chubby cheeks or the simple pleasures of vanilla ice cream melted on summer’s peach cobblers.

I didn’t expect internal battle to be already arising on Day One.

Philosophically, I absolutely buy into gratitude as a concept and sincerely believe in its power.  On the surface, you can even say that I’ve already been living the gratitude challenge for a while.  After all, my 4-year-old has been keeping a gratitude journal over the last few months (more on that in a future post) as have I.

But when I really spent time reflecting on the challenge today, scratching beneath the surface, I found that I have many beliefs ingrained in my personality that are counter to the principles of gratitude.  Let’s face it, any successes I may have had in life thus far has been made possible by zeroing in on what I could do better vs. being content with where I am.  I’ll blame it on my type-A DNA and my early upbringing in Taiwan where I vividly remember being beaten six times with a bamboo stick by my elementary school teacher for getting a score of 94 on a math test.  I can also point to the fact that most “failures” in my life probably came when I took a more relaxed approach to living my life.  Taking note of the not so great things in my life has provided the impetus for manifesting something better.  It’s a formula that has worked pretty well.  In fact, I even have a term for it. I call it “constructive discontent”.  It’s an intrinsic part of my constitution that makes me tick.

As I assume more leadership responsibilities professionally, or as my role as parent evolves beyond diaper changing to imparting values, I now realize that my “constructive discontent” tendencies have broader reaching implications.  It no longer affects just me.  Resolving the battle between constructive discontent and gratitude becomes a daily challenge.

I admit don’t have the answer yet.  But I’m convinced that whatever the answer may be, its discovery starts with awareness.  I am hopeful that this Gratitude Challenge will help me keep “constructive discontent” in check, especially in my interactions with other people.  I pledge that in the next 21 days, I will not only give thanks to the beautiful things in life, but will also strive the resolve  the tuggle between gratitude vs. constructive discontent.

So, how about this for today’s affirmation…?

I embrace my desires to want more and be better.  It is part of what makes our world turn, and it is part of my nature that makes me who I am.  However, I will delight in the creation of what could be rather than dwelling on what isn’t.  I will appreciate everyone, everything, and every circumstance that brings about what is, for what could be is built upon what is, and I will get there faster by setting my sight forward with a positive energy.  

Categories: Gratitude Challenge

So much depends upon…

August 14, 2009 2 comments

This poem by the American poet William Carlos Williams has been a favorite of mine since age 17:

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens

 I first came across it as a Junior in high school and was quite taken by it.  In fact, so much so that my college application essay was built around it!  However, it’s only recently that I’ve begun to comprehend its profoundness, with twenty more years of life, including five years of motherhood, under my belt.  I think what I was intuitively drawn to but couldn’t yet articulate is the inkling that this poem holds the key to happiness…  The difference between ordinary and extraordinary depends upon on our ability to be present, to recognize and transform opportunities what might otherwise just pass by…  This blog is my attempt to explore the wisdom held in these 16 words.

But why now?  With two demanding preschoolers and two demanding careers in our household, I really could use a few more minutes of sleep a night versus writing blog entries at 1:30am.  I guess you could say that it started with an ulterior motive.  You see, Tiny Prints (where I head up Marketing) is sponsoring a Gratitude Challenge, a social experiement and a social marketing initiative, where we ask the question, “what happens when you take note and give thanks?”  It being a project spearheaded by the marketing team, you can say I am personally vested in its success…  However, as I began to think more about it, the fundamental principle of “take note, give thanks” is the very same principle of The Red Wheel Barrow, which I have publicly declared as how I aspired to live my life at the age 17 in the form of a college application essay.  I realized, it’s time to stop aspiring and start living!

Over the next 21 days of Tiny Prints’ Gratitude Challenge, I will be asked to take little steps, five minutes at a time, to take note and give thanks of the red wheel barrows in my life.  With all the demands and challenges of my life, I know these deceptively simple exercises will take an effort.  But I’m also excited to commit and recommit.  I’d like to invite you to join me in my journey and share in the discovery of red wheel barrows and lend me your support along the way…