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

16 comments:

Me said...

Wendy -

I've been a closet-stalker of your blog for a ridiculous amount of time and it's about time I said something. First of all, I've so enjoyed reading it! Your writing style is delightful. Second, if you're looking for a really great and relatively inexpensive (and SUPER convenient) way to learn Photoshop, check out lynda.com. I've been doing online tutorials with them for the last half year or so and they're great for those quick little bursts of time when I actually have a second to look at something non-teaching related. Plus, they have some photography tutorials (in addition to tutorials on virtually every technological thing you could possibly want to learn about.)

Hope that helps. Keep writing!

Joni Newman

Ming said...

Oh Wendaline you've done it again. LOVE this post! You have such a gift for words and couldn't have put them together more perfectly than you did on this post.

I'm glad you had such a wonderful weekend in NYC (insert jealousy) and were able to return back home satisfied and content with your life at home.

The article is fabulous! The pics are great!

I love the pics of your kids flying the kite. So precious.

Just love you.

Ming said...

PS thanks for the fab right now turkey bacon shout out. It really is delicious! :)

lys said...

Beautifully composed. You are very must like Wonder Woman to me.

p.s. I love the matchy-matchy shirts. :)

Harley King said...

Beautifully written. I'm so pleased with your decision.

I don't think I could do the kids by myself.

Mom said...

Way to go Mary Tyler Moore!

Ryan and Cheryl Harris said...

Such a cool experience. I want to go next year! Maybe you can cover it annually. Wouldn't that be a cool thing to look forward to!

Such a well written post. You're right...I liked your blog description better than your article. Not that I didn't think your article was great - you know what I mean.

Such cute kite pics. And cute outfit/hair flower in those pics.

How fun to wear cute clothes and be in the big city by yourself. I'm jealous. I live in my sweats. But you're right, the greatest job of all is at home with our amazing boys.

Also, I'm excited to check out "lynda.com" that your closet stalker informed us of. That is once I buy a nice camera and become a photographer :)

Kell's Belles said...

Good for you! I love that you got a weekend away (and got paid for it while seeing Divas). But my favorite part is that you got the chance to get in touch with another part of yourself. While motherhood is the biggest part of our lives right now, I think ignoring every other part comes a big price. I know you'll be a BETTER mother because of this experience because I can see it made you appreciate everything so much. And I think it's so important for your boys to see you do things like this. You just taught them their first lesson in supporting the women in their lives! I'm so glad you got to have your Carrie Bradshaw moment (although I'm glad you picked flats instead of 6-inch heels to explore the city)!

Ali Snow said...

Well said. Great post. I love all the pics of flying kites. What fun. I'm glad you were able to go to NY for the weekend and have that experience.

Suzette Selden said...

What a great experience, and I love your article. You are incredible!

Gwendolyn said...

Way to go, Wendy! I had a moment a couple weeks ago where someone asked that "What would you do all day if you could do whatever you wanted and not have to worry about money?" and I thought, "I'd want to hang out with Sinjin." So ya, I'm lovin' this mom thing right there with you.

anna banana said...

Loved reading about this, and I am so glad you did this job! You are amazing, talented and wonderful.

You inspire me!

ps. your brotherly love boys are darling!

pps. congrats on Cheryl and Cafe Rio!

Davis & Asialene said...

Thank YOU for juggling your weekend plans to share your skills with the lds mba crowd. You were the perfect person for the job and I'm so happy I got to not only hang out with another diva, but also hear your perspective on the conference in person (Davis isn't always the greatest at sharing DETAILS :) You're amazing and I am sad our shared time on the east coast will be ending soon.

Jess said...

What a neat experience! And some great personal refelction too. When we were in the Manhattan 1st ward, our bishop was a VP at JP Morgan Chase. My husband once asked him how he did it all, and he said: lousy husband, lousy father, lousy bishop, lousy employee. I think that you can do it all, but not at the same time! Enjoy your babies and use opportunities like this to keep up your skills, and someday you will be a journalist more often!

Michael said...

Very proud of you Wendy

Sara said...

I'm so proud of you, my friend :)