Stupidest things I did this year while trying to be smart…

Broke Life - https://www.pinterest.com/resumeedge/jobresume-funnies/My husband, my friends, people who know me well and people who met me yesterday all know that I am the queen of doing too much. I think I deserve a medal OR a dunce cap to remind myself of this, because I am always biting off more than I can chew. I’m studying and working at the same time. I’m not just studying actually. I’m basically trying to write a book. And not only am I working, but I’m supposed to be people’s boss all day long. This is all while being an expert doggie mum, a new batch cook, and an aspiring CFR fellow. In preparation for the end of 2016 and in an effort to put all this mercury in retrograde behind me, here are my confessions.

money blog1 – I changed my retirement withholdings to $1 per pay period. Yup, I did that stupid $hit! Why? You might ask. I’ll tell you why. I thought I was going to overpay the maximum withholding last year. So as to avoid this, I dropped down the withholding to bare bones on the last pay period of the calendar year. And then? You might ask. I just forgot. I forgot for 10 whole months and didn’t realize until I went on vacation, came up for air and looked at my pay stub without work fog in my eyes. And so… I did that.

2 – I drove up the offramp from Kenneth Kaunda street. If you don’t know anything about Maputo what you should know is that there are no real street signs. Actually maybe there are 3 or 4, but they just popped up in the last few months. In any case, there was road construction, I was late to work and rather than just stopping for a sec to see which way traffic was going, I kept going straight up the ramp until I saw a car heading straight for me. Then, I turned into the UNHCR driveway to turn around and head back the way I came and start all over. I remained late.

image13 – I ordered a bottle of Veuve Clicquot at Oktoberfest. Yes, I meant to order champagne. No, I did not mean to order a bottle. For some reason, while sitting in a large tent filled with drunken Germans in Stuttgart, I conveniently forgot that the 95.00 price tag was in Euro (and not South African Rand). Why would I think in Rand? Well, because the only times I end up in a big party full of 20something White people, I tend to be in South Africa. In any case, 95.00 Rand is about $8 USD, which is about how much any bottle of anything in South Africa costs, so there was also a bit of wishful thinking to it too. I messed up, mixed up countries, mixed up currencies and a shameless friend sent back the bucket and made me order a glass of some cheap fizzy stuff. It cost about $8 per glass.

14581584_10102690261571042_941430723435017587_n4 – I bought and read Mindy Kaling‘s book “Why not me? – This book is horrible, but it sounded like a great idea because I love “the Mindy project” and I had free downloads on Audible. So I’m not sure if I’m more upset that I had to listen to her voice for 5 hours OR if I’m thankful that at least I saved hours of life minutes I never would have gotten back if I had read it myself. In short, her retelling of her life experiences is boring. Maybe she does fun things in real life, but she didn’t talk about them in this book. And then she gave a revisionist telling of advice about being a confident woman years after actually having been asked. And even after years of rumination… her answer was still lackluster. I want my money & my life minutes back.

5 – Batch cooking – Ok, so this is actually smart. But, since we have no legit tupperware (just old plastic ice cream containers), I have no place to store the food except in the pots I cooked them in. They fill up my fridge and seem appealing & edible for dinners (though they were intended for lunch) and by Wednesday at 11am, I have officially ran out of meals for the rest of the week. I’m still working through this one, because I think it’s redeemable. I’m trashing the repurposed ice cream tubs and investing in glass containers with snap on lids… I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

Hope you enjoyed my  “doing too much” calamity confessions. Laugh @ my pain…

#musicamondays #MUSICMONDAYS (12)

This tune is from British soul singer, Laura Mvula, who hails from Birmingham, UK. It is particularly appropriate to start off the work week with confidence, so I hope this keeps you strong all week long.

Welcome to the 12th installation of #musicamondays & #MUSICMONDAYS, which features music from around the world. Each song is selected to start your week off with a new energy and new country(ies) to explore! Go forth and do great things!

Enjoy the tunes…

Giving Birth to my Vision Board

IMG_2545The first time I ever heard about a vision board, I was in a restaurant in Melville, Johannesburg with my friend Michelle. We were talking about all of the things we wanted for our businesses and our plans for the coming year. She had been working on an online consignment shop concept for many years but hadn’t yet brought it to market. And me, well, I have a million little hustles going at any one time and often no sleep and no quality time with my husband to show for it. She mentioned all the things she has on her vision board and how they’ve helped her focus. I immediately laughed at her and thought she was a quack. Dinner continued and developed into a night of NYC inspired debauchery and life went on…

Fast forward to last month. I was in the US and Europe traveling for a while to recharge my battery and reconnect with family. During these long plane rides and alone time while everyone is at work, I usually have time to refresh my goals. I get inspired by remembering all the things and people who made me.

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The FLY Coach (PHOTO CREDIT: YASMEEN ANDERSON PHOTOGRAPHY)

So, I started reading blogs by the FLY Coach and Christine Kane on visualizing success and they brought me back to that table in Melville a few months ago. My quack of a friend didn’t really explain herself very well when she dropped the vision board reference in passing. After doing my own reading, I totally saw the logic. For years I have had annual lists of projected accomplishments. In short, they were glorified to-do lists. They required minimal revision throughout the year and usually 90% of the list was completed by year’s end. Success! But, recently I’ve drifted away from the validation of accomplishments and focused on the long-term. You can’t really put, “Be a better person” on a to do list and be empowered to go out and achieve it. This vision board, though, really fills in the gaps.

The logic here is that you use images of what makes you happy, fulfilled, accomplished and loved to create a board to remind you to go after that vision of your future. Not everyone’s idea of “be rich,” for example, look alike. So, you’re tasked to be specific: create a collage of pictures that match how you want to feel and that look exactly like what you want for yourself. Interesting things emerge.

I found that things I expected to have on my vision board weren’t what eventually made the cut.  In fact, I was looking for someone rolling around in a pile of money, but that picture never came up in my stack of Latina, Bona, Real Simple and House & Leisure mags. I also expected to have something about travel, airplanes or globe-trotting crop up. Ditto – there isn’t so much as a beach image with a mai tai or a paper plane heading towards palm trees.

P1070335Looking at my board with fresh eyes this morning, there are a few things that even I am shocked by. First, I used glue. I hear that many people like to use push pins or something that isn’t as permanent. Rather than having to scrap the whole board or paste over it, they like to switch out images as they no longer become relevant. Maybe it was just a beginner’s boo boo, but I also think maybe the glue shows both how committed I am to these concepts and how much I think each piece is integral to all the others. Second, there are 6 children on my board. We agreed on 5! But somehow on the family side of my board there’s an extra body. I intended to add the very last one to the work side of my board, but the kid with the Kindle ended up with the other babies. Good thing we’re ok with adopting.

Third, the work side of my board is racially mixed; the family side of my board isn’t. I suppose that’s just my reality, but it’s very telling. Proximity doesn’t mean integration and rather than fighting that, I’m happy to embrace the fact that I will produce healthy, intelligent Black children raised in a loving, successful, two parent household. So few kids have this in the world and I’m committed to this vision for my own. Fourth, all the images of a de-cluttered home were supposed to be paired with the words for the cities where I want to buy new property. Instead they’re in a section between work and family that’s labeled “Sleep.” The images are actually of a bed and pillows. Subliminal much? Last, when it comes to work, my vision board doesn’t include anything about my PhD, my day job, or even my multiple side businesses. It focuses on being a writer. All in all, I knocked my own socks off with this vision board. I’ve drilled down to the most important and most essential images that reflect what I want to be my future. I’m a believer and I’ve just begun to use it this morning!

I’m not sure what vision board sharing etiquette is, but I’m beginning to think that it’s supposed to be a sacred secret. My friends who have them refer to them vaguely in Facebook posts, but never really tell us what they’re after. I think you’re supposed to keep it in a place where you see it everyday, but I’m not sure what that means for your family who have to walk past your future every single day of their lives. I don’t quite know if you can share it after you’re no longer using it or if that jinxes it somehow. I’m still new to this. But, I’m proud of what I’ve compiled and I had to share the journey with people who would appreciate it. Maybe now, I sound like a quack too or maybe you’ve had one for years and this is letting you revisit what you already know. But, if you’re also green on vision boards, I hope you’ll give it a try. I found that my vision for my future doesn’t match the words I use in my daily life. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, so long as I have some way to stay grounded and remind myself of what success, love, and ‘a life in full’ really mean to me. My vision board’s got my back!

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Minus work, my life is balanced…

Kiss Him, Johannesburg (2015)

Kiss Him, Johannesburg (2015)

Since the clock struck 12, just 25 days ago, much has happened. Yet for weeks, I’ve felt that not so much of it has been worth writing about. I went to Joburg for my poor, poor friend’s wedding (you remember her, right?). I went to Durban to celebrate my birthday. One of my very best friends came to town to enjoy it all. I went to work a lot. I met exciting new people for my research. I made a few new friends. I bought the Minaj’s album (as well as that of Mafikizolo, Chris Brown, Drake and Liquideep). I even made my first donation, as promised, to the Whitman Walker Clinic. All  great things…I tell you. And none of that has seemed worth writing about.

I’m jaded.

IMG_1541I’ve always been a bit of an Eeyore, i.e. the cynic (borderline pessimist) who never understands what the big deal is about things that other people considered big deals. But the problem now is that I feel like I’m doing so much that I just don’t get a chance to stop and smell whatever this flower is called, much less appreciate it enough to write about it. My whole life my parents have reminded me that I’m “never satisfied.” No matter how much they tried to make me smile or enjoy a good day, I was always looking for more of a good thing, so much so that it negated their efforts in the moment. And what’s worse, I think I’ve lost the ability to understand how stressful chasing the next satisfaction really is on me and the people I love.

What most might call “a first world problem,” has followed me wherever I’ve lived, wherever I’ve gone, no matter how much I try to run away from responsibilities. So, maybe it’s just a character flaw? I don’t know how to relax. I never have. Is it possible that I never will?

I’ve spent much of my adult life talking with counselors and therapists, friends and people who probably didn’t really care enough to listen with both ears, simply trying to find outlets to vent. But it has occurred to me now that talking about all the things I do, rather than actually limiting those things, will not offer much relief. I watched a really great Ted Talk on ‘work/ life balance’ a few weeks back and I thought “shit, so a gym membership won’t fix this?” (Nigel Marsh: How to make work-life balance work).

When I originally heard the term back in 2009, I was a skeptic of the value of ‘work/life balance’ debates. First, I didn’t have much of a family and I’d just started my job, so work was still exciting for me. Almost 6 years down the line, I’m figuring at this rate either my body or my brains will fight against any willful efforts at procreation, so there’s nothing to balance there. According to the IRS, my husband and I make a family. That should be enough to tear me away from my office, except my sense of work ethic keeps me attached to my seat complaining about people I don’t particularly like and work I don’t find particularly meaningful. Not to mention that at this very moment, my work eats a piece of brain and two pieces of my soul on a daily basis.

My poorly thought out solution was to chase my dream of completing a PhD.  But, there’s a fundamental problem here. I didn’t actually quit my job. How many more hours of the day did I gain by pretending that work isn’t the real focal point of my life? Negative 8 hours.

I genuinely feel like out of a 9 hour work day, when I add the time I spend without my spouse and the time I should be working on my PhD, and divide that by the time I spend complaining, I end up losing 8 hours of life energy per day. The 1 hour retained was lunch.

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So, of all the awesome things I’ve done in the past few weeks to take my mind off things and to relax, much of it – like my PhD – seemed to be fulfilling, but still stress-inducing.  I made work out of relaxing and certainly didn’t take the time to stop and enjoy each moment.

Nigel Marsh says that even adding a gym work out to the mix won’t help me be more balanced, just more fit. And I’m inclined to believe him. It’s already one more thing on my lengthy and never-ending to do list… just above “read.”

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Obviously, for me the question isn’t so much about the tension between work and life, but finding value in both accomplishments and happiness. Being a glutton for work punishment may be an outgrowth of my own inability to separate the two. My own personal sense of achievement comes from seeing something through from start to finish. I value measurable accomplishments. Taking the time to live out my own happiness is hard thing to step back and admire. I’m not sure how to celebrate my days spent at the pool. But, it sure makes me feel energized for the days ahead and it just feels good.

Perhaps 2015 is the year to figure it all out…

Bossypants for the Public Service Soul

zoraI am not an expert on how women can make the most of a twenty-year career.  However, I also haven’t had a twenty-year career yet.  Suffice it to say that I’ve looked to successful senior women to point out high points and pitfalls, but very rarely have I felt understood.  I read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In with baited breath, hoping to stumble upon tools I could employ in my workplace.  I do not, and have never, aspired to work in corporate America, however.  So, few of her suggestions apply to me – the female public servant.  To make matters more complicated, the female voices in my line of work tend to come from the top down, shrieking Ann Marie Slaughter’s declaration that, ‘Women still can’t have it all.’

Read my complete guest blog on ‘The Fly Coach’!