Wednesday, March 28, 2012

No Water Cooler, No Problem: Hot Topics Have No Place In The Workplace

Boys in Chicago united in protest to handling of Trayvon Martin case in Florida. I love this photo.

The White Bronco Chase.

The Verdict.

Hurricane Katrina.

Kanye Dissing W.

Kanye Interrupting Taylor Swift.

Liar Shouted At The President in a State of the Union address

Those are just a few of the many times in my adult life when events have swept our nation up in a firestorm of conversation about race relations, racial tension or as some folks say "the race card" where people inject race where it should not be a factor.

Trayvon Martin murder.

Why did I separate the latest event? Because for the first time in my adult life I'm not in a "workplace" setting where I'm forced to interact with others as we all process our reactions, thoughts and feelings around very polarizing topics.

I've had the luxury to deal with this latest event 100% on my own terms. First, taking in little information and reading/watching as I wanted. No forced conversations. No reacting to the reactions of others.

Last week,  as the fever pitch of the Martin case came to a crescendo,  I found myself frozen in a state of shock. Finally realizing that as a mom to a vibrant little black boy of the tender age of 6 - that this harsh reality of our country's state of poor race relations could impact his life, fatally in an instant. I became obsessed with coverage for a few days and really didn't speak to anyone besides my husband,  save a quick conversation with my lawyer and friend-  a fellow black mom of boys.  A few other IMs with friends and one quick Facebook post has been all the interacting on the topic I could handle.

Nothing more. And I was glad that I no longer had the water cooler layer to add to my processing.  I  never realized before now, how stressful all those previous situations. Regardless where I worked, I was always one of few or the only minority in the vicinity and I always felt compelled to join the discussions,  no matter now painful. It was a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation.

Sit by and let opinions fly that were at times downright ignorant.

Join in the conversation at the "risk" of representing all black folks in the world with my thoughts.

Either way, I always dreaded going to work on the morning "after" these stories broke.

How refreshing it is to be self-employed as the current firestorm brews. I can opt-out of discussions with others or opt-in - 100% at my choosing.

I do believe that race relations are a worthy topic of discussion and welcome it but not at work. We have a far too contentious a relationship with race in the United States to really discuss it at the water cooler.

Do me a favor? Stop and look around your workplace. Look for opportunities to opt-out of these conversations in a global setting. One-on-one is another story. By all means - if you'd like to discuss this with someone you have a relationship with - do it. That is good.

I mean the literal gatherings or "water cooler" huddles that discuss volatile issues are bad news for most people involved. Remember that the next time we have one of these explosive topics hit the national news cycle.

What do you think?

Monday, March 26, 2012

How To Make Time To Do What You Love

How often do you 'plan' to do things and never follow through?

How many of those things are things you LOVE to do?

This has really become a hot topic for me now that I am self-employed. Prioritizing.

It is so easy to just power through life and not make time for the things we love. We fill our days with obligations and things we 'need' to do in place of things we love to do. If you stop and take a close look at how you spend your time, would you make changes?

I've been bird dogging my time since I've been working on my own and found that I have a healthy balance of obligations and genuine desires in my every day life. It varies by day but it balances out each the week. There is never a shortage of things we are obligated to do. However, it can be a challenge to work in the things we love to do.  Here are three techniques I use to achieve this balance:


Do you even know what you love to do? I do. And I can honestly say that over the years it's morphed and changed. Identifying activities that you love takes time and trial. Don't miss an opportunity to understand your desires. Be observant to your body's cues. Last year, I would have told you that I don't like to run if you'd asked me. Then my daughter asked me to run a 5K with her and I started training. It was painful yet fulfilling. I loved the actual races I ran last year so much so that I have committed to 5 races this year with the first one being in 4 weeks. Had I not tried it, I would have never figured myself to be a runner. 


Declaring what you love is just as important as identifying it. Once you know, you must say it. One of my favorite parts in the movie Elf  is when Buddy The Elf declares, "I'm in love, I'm in love and I don't care who knows about it!" That is the same enthusiasm we should have in stating our desires.  Journal if you're not comfortable shouting it. It doesn't matter how you articulate it, just as long as you do actually express it. It cannot become real until it gets from your head and heart to paper or to your lips.


Get the folks you do life with in on your desires! It is really difficult to make time for something that no one knows about. My running is a priority now and everyone in my life knows it. I've also recently declared that I am writing a book. I've already asked for accountability from an old college friend and lined up an editor. Without question, I follow through on the my dream to write a book now more than any other time before simply because I've enlisted some help to keep it high on my priority list.

That's my list. What are techniques you use to work in more things you love vs. things you need to do?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring Cleaning: A Complex But Great Relationship

This post is sponsored by Pine-Sol® Clean & Disinfect with Pine-Sol®: The Powerful Scent of Clean." I was compensated for this post as a member of Clever Girls Collective, but the content is all my own.

With the onset of Spring coming so early in Chicago this year, I feel a bit off balance and out of sorts. Breaking open the windows this past week reminded me of the ONE time of year I actually enjoy cleaning my house.

My relationship with cleaning has always been somewhat strained but each Spring, I manage to put aside my day-in, day-out baggage and really give my house the once over it longs for from its owner.

It was not so long ago that I outsourced regular cleaning for good after many fits and starts. 2009 to be exact. I caved in to the pressure to keep our 1900 square feet - 3 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom house somewhat livable by hiring a service twice per month. Best use of budget dollars every month.

We even changed cleaning crews recently but when they asked me the other day - "can we schedule your Spring cleaning?" I was happy to respond - "Thanks, but no thanks."

You see - I LOVE the chance to restart the cleaning season in my house.

I love to make the wood floors sing like only I can.
I love to clean the windows and blinds.
I love to defrost and clean the freezer and fridge - behind the fridge - even better.
I don't love the bathrooms but I do love the smell of Lavender Fresh Pine Sol that fills my house after I do manage to get them done.

I love what I model to my kids in the process...

You can convert a poor relationship (every day maintenance cleaning) into an excellent one (annual spring cleaning) by recognizing clear cues of distress, addressing them and being realistic about the long term prospects.

I am a lousy cleaning person if I must do it regularly. Especially now.

With a new business, I am more busy than I ever was in my corporate gig.
With kids growing up and branching out - our time together is precious. Too precious to lose a Saturday am or weeknight evening to cleaning.

However, taking the time to thoroughly clean every spring allows me to get rid of things we no longer need to make way for new or nothing. It keeps me in touch with my home's needs and fine tunes my instructions for our crew each year. I wouldn't change it for anything.

While my date with the cleaning bucket is  usually late April early May - this year - it will be over Spring Break next week. And I can't wait!

What about you? What is your relationship with Spring Cleaning?

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Be Unencumbered

One of my favorite sights every Spring is that of birds returning to the Chicagoland area.

I love to see them in flight especially in the early days like now when it is a big risk that the weather may not cooperate long term.

What I love most is the freedom these birds have to be where they want to be, regardless of the pundits who say the weather won't last. 

Regardless of whether generous souls have their bird feeders out yet.

Regardless of what predators await them.

Birds are unencumbered by nature.

Last week one of my Twitter friends tweeted and I quote

"@Lotay is unencumbered."

What a grand statement!

Dictionary says:

un·en·cum·bered [uhn-en-kuhm-berd]  


1. not impeded, slowed down, or retarded; free to move, advance, or go forward.
2. having few or no burdens or obligations.
3. not burdened or weighed down, as with bulky or heavy objects.
Can you describe yourself as unencumbered? 
Most days I can and it is really a goal every day. 
No question, life throws curve balls our way and sometimes it's hard not to feel just a wee bit encumbered but as long as it is a temporary state, all is good.
Look out your window and spot a bird. Observe their nature and do it yourself.

Be unencumbered this day!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Keep It Moving: A Tale of a Good Relationship With Obstacles

Credit: iq concepts @fotaglia

When you are working on something and it falls apart after hours and hours of investment, what is your first reaction?

After venting and thoroughly expressing my disappointment for a short period of time, I usually just Keep It Moving!

Really.  No joking.

Keep It Moving.

Life is too short to allow obstacles much time.

Obstacles come in many shapes and forms but are always identifiable by their ability to block our view from the goal. Obstacles obscure but never fully block the road to our goals.

Unless we let them.

My partner and I recently had a business opportunity crumble before our eyes over the course of a weekend. It was not pretty. I'll spare you the gory details but I will share this...

The sun had not set on the Sunday of that weekend without me already dusting off our original plan that we were executing against when our "obstacle" got into our view last fall.

The obstacle that we had was a good one, a gift. It did a few things for us....

1. Solidified our original commitment.
2. Strengthened our belief in our abilities.
3. Kick started us toward what we REALLY needed to be doing.

You see, I have a a fantastic relationship with obstacles. I'm constantly faced with them yet they never get the best of me. Even the big scary, expensive ones....I never take my eyes off the prize, the goal. I "keep it moving" toward my goal. Period

My favorite analogy is one that I can't believe I still see in this day and age... have you ever seen those people basically parked on the highway under the viaducts when it's pouring rain sideways? I can remember the first time I saw this driving on my own. I was tempted to stop and join them but just couldn't. To my surprise and now my delight - the crazy storm was really just a few clouds and stopping under the viaduct kept those folks from where they were going. Even temporarily, it was a waste when the road was clear a few miles ahead where it was lightly raining or not raining at all.

That's how I see obstacles... a raincloud that must be driven through.

What about you? What is your relationship with obstacles?