Thursday, April 21, 2011

Working Girl

You know when you used to work at something really hard and it kind of defined you? Then a single event changed your entire life and now you work even harder at something totally different and it completely consumes you?

I was a journalist. Definition. Then Anderson made me a mama. Consumption.

Two weeks ago I stepped back into my old journalist life. Just for a weekend. Then I came back to my current mama life. The experience left me loving and appreciating both lives but reminded me they can’t really coexist. Or at least not for me, the way I want them to, which is gracefully, of course.

Earlier this month, Asialene Diva and her cute family visited from Philadelphia to see us (and the cherry blossoms).

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Her husband Davis told us about this amazing networking conference he was organizing in New York City for LDS MBAs. They wanted us to join them, but we’ve done the whole double stroller in NYC thing and just couldn’t swing it again this month. But five days later when Asialene called me and wanted to hire me to come to NYC by myself and work for the conference: report it, write about it, take pictures of it… well, that’s another story.

A whole weekend. By myself. In one of my very favorite places. Working. Writing. And, this was new, taking pictures. No one has ever paid me to do that. And I get to attend this really great conference. And I get to hang with Asialene Diva. And Nicole Diva who, with her new husband, was flying in from Utah for the conference.

I considered it. I juggled some plans. I made some phone calls. And. I. went. Let’s be honest I can never really say no to that city. And writing and being with girlfriends in that city? It was my chance to live the Carrie Bradshaw dream! Minus the men, of course.

I’ve been blessed to have a handful of work from home jobs since I left the news biz. I like the creative outlet, the challenge and the opportunity to keep my fingers in the industry. However, no opportunity has been quite like this. It was a chance to leave my mom sweats completely behind and pray I could still fit into my professional slacks. Yes, I’m talking literally and figuratively. As I thought about all this, I picked up Max and he spit up all over my shirt. As I reached for a wipe, Anderson pegged me (accidentally) HARD smack in the face with a ball. My mom witnessed the whole thing on video-chat. I told her, “Yeah, I’m ready to go back to work for a weekend.”

Two days later I was on a bus bound for the Big Apple. I left my 9 month old nursing baby, my nearly 3-year-old birthday-planning boy and my mega supportive husband, who had a conference himself that weekend, which he quietly skipped.

This is what I packed. My less-than-48-hour trip suitcase was HEAVY. A breast pump, Cokes, diet shakes (my morning addiction), camera, laptop and a very heavy book I was gifting weighs a Diva down. But I only packed two pair of shoes! My Toms and my black Gap city flats. I knew my mother would be proud.

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The Megabus lacked its advertised free WiFi, the bathroom was disgusting and it took two and a half hours longer than planned (thanks pouring rain), but we arrived just before midnight Friday night. The minute I stepped off the bus I was overwhelmed with two NYC extremes. 1. The energy. You can almost smell it. You can certainly see it and hear it. The city just bustles. It’s so loud and busy and bright and tall and chaotic and cool. It’s intoxicating and I love it. 2. It’s filthy. Ick. I would like to take the opportunity to brag that three times people stopped me and asked for directions. I love being mistaken for a local, especially a local who has a clue because let’s be honest I am geographically challenged. All three times I knew exactly what to say. I was so impressed with myself.

I stayed in the perfect location. 67th street right by the temple, right by Lincoln Center, right off the 1 line, right by Central Park and right by a Nuts 4 Nuts stand. My bestie from my good old days at KSL has this cute little apartment right there and was more than gracious about supporting me in my journalism gig by letting me stay. Except I didn’t just stay. She and her husband were out of town so I took over her place and had it all to myself. I missed seeing her, but I kept such odd hours that quick weekend it was probably for the best. Plus, Marie, I would have felt really dumb if you watched me take pictures of myself in your bathroom.

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Scarfed for success. It’s a small miracle I held on to some of my work clothes during my last wardrobe purge.

The conference just happened to be held at none other than Columbia University. I lived in Columbia’s dorms during my internship with Dateline NBC back in 2003. I left New York that summer, coming home to marry Harley and work who-knows-MAYBE-in-the-news-biz-if-anyone-will-hire-me. I never imagined I’d be back on Columbia’s campus, eight years later, having left 2 kids and a PhD student in DC, to write a news story. And all thanks to a Diva’s husband! Kind of amazing where life takes you. I couldn’t help but reflect as I passed the Journalism building.

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It sure felt like eight years since my career began. Boy am I rusty at journalism and booooy am I amateur at photography. I desperately need a better lens for my camera and I really want to take a Photoshop class. But I did it. I snapped hundreds of pictures. I interviewed dozens of people. I took copious notes. I loved it. It was fulfilling, inspiring and gratifying to be professional, creative and alone for a weekend.

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The coffee Columbia offered which remained untouched.

The conference was incredible. 157 bright, charismatic LDS MBAs from Harvard, Wharton and the like gathered to meet, network and hear from successful LDS business leaders, including Clayton Christensen. It was like EFY for grad school. I networked a bit myself and bumped into some old friends from BYU. The speakers and panelists had amazing stories that inspired me to lead a more service-oriented life and to always put Christ first. I had a tender moment that turned my thoughts to Harley and all he is trying to juggle to provide for us, finish school, serve at church, be a hands-on dad and an attentive husband. I recommitted to be more sensitive to how tough that balance can be.

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Guest speaker on entrepreneurship, Steve Jenkins. His incredible life story included selling his company for 48.5 million CASH when he was 28 years old, then tragically losing his son. One of his messages: “Money is NOTHING.”

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Clayton Christensen is a giant. Physically, in the business world and certainly spiritually. He recently survived cancer, a heart attack and a stroke. At times he couldn't properly assemble a sentence, yet his message was strong. His secret: use your God given talents to make others happy. Put the Kingdom of God and your family first and God will magnify you beyond your abilities to do the rest. His personal stories of practicing this principle brought tears to my eyes.DSC_0427

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More LDS MBA Conference pictures here.

As I headed back to Marie’s to change, I saw a pregnant woman begging for money in the subway. It made me sad, and I thought about all the messages from the conference. I didn’t have much cash, so I gave her my water and an apple. It was so small, but she seemed so grateful.

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That night everyone went to a Mets game. I met up with Asialene and Nicole and we had a grand time. I can’t tell you who won the game. I didn’t even know until halftime (or whatever its called) the Mets were playing the Nationals. But I can tell you we had awesome seats, and we were FREEZING so we danced like crazy people to stay warm. We shared THE BEST burgers, fries and strawberry shakes from The Shake Shack. And we giggled. Love these girls.

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The next morning I raced home to fly a kite with Anderson and host preschool Monday morning. It was back to mom mode.

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Transitioning back to kids was hard because I still had to edit pictures, write the article and help pitch it. Guess what? It’s tricky business working and mom-ing at the same time. On a normal week it’s probably doable, but last week was crazy. Monday I hosted preschool (and a kid peed all over the floor), our DVD player broke (goodbye babysitter), Anderson didn’t nap two days in a row and Max was sick and cutting a tooth. Plus I had two birthdays to plan. And then, THEN, Max learned this new trick.

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Remember when Anderson and Max adored each other? Well Max learning to pull himself to a stand was a relationship changer. Now Max-zilla is all up in Anderson’s business and Anderson is not exactly impressed.

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There is still a lot of love, but there is also a lot of grabbing, screaming, freaking out and knocking over.

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All the little interruptions both bugged me and riddled me with mom guilt. Here I was putting my kids aside to write about a conference that preached to put family first. I tired to juggle both for two days and both days I gave up mid afternoon and waited until everyone went to bed to work. Ah, nighttime. My most productive time of day. The next day I was dead tired. I mean, sleep… that’s what really takes the hit in the end right? Every time.

It didn’t help that I remembered I kind of hate newspaper writing. Or maybe I just don’t remember how to do it well. It’s been eight years since I’ve had a byline. And that last byline was in The Daily Universe. To make matters more challenging I was writing one big generic story that could land in as many as half a dozen papers, all differing in writing style, audience and, in some cases, agenda. Thank goodness for this blog where I make all the rules. On top of it all, news must be timely! Each day that passed we lost relevance.

Finally I finished. I’m pleased with the way it turned out. And my little article was published! Alongside my pictures! Here, here and here. Then it was printed in the Mormon Times section of the Deseret News paper on Thursday April 28th. I’m surprised how excited I get seeing my name in print.

It was great for me to take this little job. Thank you Davis and Asialene for the great opportunity! I recently turned down a writing job for an awesome blog. I was excited by the gig at first but after much debate decided my time and energy need to be spent elsewhere right now, namely enjoying my kids and investing in my own blog. I know I made the right decision, but I had some tugs of regret at passing on what may have been wonderful for me. My working weekend in NYC fell at the perfect time. I got my professional fix, and now I’m back to my real job. I’m a full-time, all-consumed Mom and that’s perfect for me.

DSC_0650 Oh how I had missed this face. Blackberry messy and all.

The day after I finished the story I was sitting at the dinner table with Anderson as he talked nonsense, making up words. I was repeating them back to him and we were both enjoying our silliness. He repeated one made-up line over and over and finally I asked him what it meant. He looked up at me, all cute and pensive, then in his silly robot voice said, “It means you’re a mom. That’s what you are. A mom.”

That’s right, Anderson. That’s right. Once in awhile, I need to be reminded of my most important job of all.DSC_0573

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Life Just Got 10,000x Better.

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#1. Cheryl and posse are moving here in July. For a whole year. Next summer when they move to North Carolina we’ll likely be moving to Whoknowswhere so it works out perfectly. They’ll probably be about an hour away, but I am still THRILLED! Who would have thought our looooong, husband-induced, upper education journeys would have landed us in the same place in the end? And Maryland of all places! I’m looking forward to many, many, many more days like today:

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DSC_0084 Little guys on little chairs sharing little puzzles. Melt me.

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DSC_0067-1The Fearsome Foursome. Oh the fun we will have.

#2. Cafe Rio is opening 12 miles from my house next Wednesday. This is Cafe Rio’s first east coast location. They picked Olney, Maryland. I find this very random. And very miraculous.

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I guess if you wait long enough people and things you love you moved from move to you.

Given #1 and #2, here is what I am now calling my loop of love. A/D=us. B=Cafe Rio. C=Cheryl. I will be making this loop a lot.loop of love

I just might stay here forever now.

Oh, and today I learned I was published.

Dreams coming true all over the place baby!