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Uniquely Mine

I have a friend who named her blog, “Broad Brains.” She defines it like this:

broad (brawd), –adjective: of great breadth. . . not limited or narrow; of extensive range or scope. . . liberal, tolerant. . . unconfined, free, unrestrained. . .
noun: Slang, a woman.

brains (breyns), –noun: understanding; intellectual power; intelligence. . .the center of thought, understanding, etc.; intellect.

Duh, thinks my brain, uniquely hers. I would never conjure such a clever use of words and define it like that. I created my own, so simple in my mind, yet so explicit. Daily, I strive for balance. I am one mom. A mom of many moms in our world, so simple: One Mom’s Balancing Act. Act because sometimes you really do have to fake it until you make it.

If you Google “Moms Balancing Act” you get my blog “One Mom’s Balancing Act” and another “A Mom’s Balancing Act” that pop up first. Similar, sure, but mine is uniquely mine. So, while it might not (in my mind) be as clever as a Broad with lots of Brains (and she does have lots) “One” Mom’s Balancing Act is uniquely mine – at least for now!

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My assessment of the themes: I need solitude to ponder, think, make sense of things to formulate solid opinions and plans that are directed by my values. Doing this thinking and prep satisfies my thirst for knowledge and deep intellectual connections.

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Learning by Smartphone

Talking on the phone and using a computer.
Talking on the phone and using a computer. Image by alexis22578 via flickr.

I needed two phone numbers, right then – at that moment. I didn’t have them. It was a technical difficulty with a conference phone we were using. We had to patch our two callers in instead of using the call-in number.

I never wrote their numbers down.

My boss grabbed her smartphone and started the email check in – need your numbers now please. I called the office to get data from the database. The president began emailing on her phone to further the queries and check the data in her address book.

It was another moment where I wished I had a smartphone.

I covet the dastardly little devils. I enjoy technology, playing with it, learning it, exploring it. But, I also prefer open source technology which often comes with a low or no cost option. So, not buying a smartphone hasn’t been that difficult given the price tag it adds by years’ end.

I also enjoy stories and learning from other people. I haven’t purchased a smartphone for many reasons.

  1. Because of this techonology love, a weakness is staying on the computer too long.
  2. Because of my drive to try to do a good job, I tend to be on the computer too long.
  3. It’s good to take a break and it’s easier to do that when I have the gumption to turn the thing off or not have the thing – I know it will be hard to turn the thing off once I have it.
  4. As such, I’m not on all the time, so why would I want to receive messages allĀ  the time?

After the missing numbers and the smartphone exploration two members reiterated my concerns.

  1. I have had clients email me at midnight on Friday, then complain on Monday when I didn’t respond.
  2. I really don’t like getting emails with questions I can’t answer when I’m not at my desk. It actually makes me feel more efficient.

Yes, thought I, this expands on why not.

So, this simple post is twofold. First, reiterating why I won’t buy into this covetous technology. But, also describing how we can learn.

Recently, someone close to me tried to argue that it is impossible to learn from other people’s mistakes.

She stated, repeatedly, that she felt it is not possible for another to learn from the mistakes I made.

She didn’t have to explain why she felt that way because intrinsically I knew where she was coming from. It’s like the father-son relationship. Father can explain to son all the bad things he did and how it affected him, but at some point, son needs to experience it for himself and come to his own conclusions.

On that intellectual level, I will buy that. I can buy that. I do buy that.

But, if son was a smart boy, after experiencing it for himself, he would be wise to compare his experiences with his father’s. “Oh, Dad explained that and this happened. And that just happened to me. I should be cautious that this other thing could happen.” (I’m reticent to give examples lest I think too gory for my own mind.)

So, this smartphone example will have to suffice. I know I covet the expensive toy. I know there are limitations to what I will realistically be able to accomplish with this expensive toy. It was refreshing to hear other stories of how people use their expensive toy to inform any future decisions I might make regarding it.

I have learned from their stories. I will compare my situation to further educate myself . I will be a part of progress for the better evolvement of our human society.

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Marketing or “I Love Big Brother”

Buy Nothing Day
Image by Bright Tal (Political) via Flickr

In my twenties, I sometimes epitomized the idealist radical. I knew people who wanted to shun all aspects of society, I toyed around with different ideas in aspects of shunting society as we know it. I embraced Buy Nothing Day (still do) and I became a big fan of “ad busters.” I started to think that anyone who enjoyed a commercial, for example, simply fell into the advertising trap and willingly engaged in brain washing.

Then I worked for small businesses. I helped create events to attract locals. We ran a summer “Comedy Club“, advertised, offered coupons. I created a few tapes of background music with my limited music collection, gently merging Dave Matthew’s Band with Janis Joplin.

Later, I was fully introduced to the non-profit world and strategic planning and consistent messaging. The mission statement was posted everywhere, a place to give focus.

Don’t forget, I sold books door-to-door.

And, then I found myself phone banking. I cold-called people on the telephone, random numbers, and asked them to donate to PBS, NPR, and their local museums. We had a script. We had goals. We were coached from supervisors. We were told to tell the truth, so if someone asked if were volunteers we were to tell them we were paid employees of a contracted firm.

I found myself working in a design-build firm, and I had the opportunity to work closely with web designers, graphic designers, all on the heals of the organization celebrating their 50th anniversary. I attended a conference, I listened, I studied. I became more aware of branding, image, consistency in print material – even down to a business letter.

Then, I was volunteering again. Now, I was coaching others on branding! I had done my own 180. Suddenly, I found that I loved big brother. The lessons stick with me, and I am more keenly aware of font contrasts, making things pop, recognizing bad design and having difficulty creating good. I used to hate advertisers, thinking they were merely out to brainwash the world one bad ad at a time. Now, I giggle at most TV ads I see. Most, I consider clever, how they pack their message in a 20 second slot, with a complete story line: beginning, middle, end. I even love the new Wal-Mart ads for their catchiness, ability to appeal to the masses in an intellecutal way. I consider the film classes I took that taught me, among other things, to always consider the point of the director. What is the director trying to show?

Regardless, I love Big Brother. I love Big Brother for the art it is. I am thankful for my ability to question, to ponder, and to wonder. I appreciate the lessons learned and amazed at how when I entered my 30s the optimism and idealism of my 20s wanes to reality. If I had to do it over again, with the knowledge I have now, I would consider an advertising degree. Yes, I certainly do love Big Brother.

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A palette of watercolours and a brush.
Image via Wikipedia

In response to my Cooking post, she said something like, “Wow, Michelle, I enjoy your passion about things.”

I thought. I paused. I reflected.

I was questioned several years ago why I won’t do art as a career. I can draw (always have been able to). I enjoy it. I love it. I love getting better. I love hearing new things and experiencing new things I can do with pen, paper, paint, paints, charcoal, any medium really. But, why don’t I pursue it as a career? I said, “I don’t want to ruin the thing I love with the pursuit of money.” He retorted, “Why not do the thing you love because you love it?”

Indeed. It’s too personal is the other answer. I don’t want what is so close to my heart criticized. And, there are so many other things I like doing, why be pigeonholed? I need a career that can encapsulate most of what I like to do – simply to keep me engaged!

I have realized that there are about three things – ideas – where I like to focus my daily thoughts: food, the earth (environment, planet, etc), and housing. There are skills I enjoy utilizing to talk about these ideas: drawing, sketching, presenting, creating, office busy work, talking, facilitating, organizing, motivating, problem solving, writing, reading, teaching.

I can use art to talk about food, but the creation of the artistic thing doesn’t have to be the only thing, and it doesn’t have to be tied to my heart or a commission. I can use the design skills I’ve used to help educate and inform marketing choices at work or in the clubs with which I work. I can use my writing to help with websites, newsletters, business letters – and it’s just part of the picture – not the whole thing.

I have learned I have to diversify my interests, but not too much because I can’t be stretched thinner than I already am. I learned that I can’t be a crisis counselor full time no matter how much compassion I might have for the person or the cause – but volunteering a few hours a month works. I have learned to overcome certain fears: like asking for money. I have learned that it’s even easy to ask people to support causes I love.

I have learned that I don’t want just any job and that it must be tied around a passion in order to motivate me to do it. Working a as a secretary just anywhere won’t do – it has to be around my interests. Several years ago I realized that my personal goal is to “teach people about the importance of a sustainable society.” Sustainability as defined using the metaphor of “people, places, and profit” all in equilibrium suggesting a balance in environmental use, the people who do the work, and ensuring there is a black bottom line for the finance people.

So, yes, friend, I would agree – I am passionate. But, I don’t know how else to operate! I feel like there is no point if I don’t go with where my passions direct me. Thank you kindly for your observation because it has given me this opportunity to reflect.

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Soccer Levi

Soccer Levi
Levi playing soccer, solo, in our backyard. He was doing pretty good for a four-year old for 10 minutes, until he got tired. (Image by alexis22578 via flickr.)


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Eventful – Managing Stress & Balance

Sisters by Blood & Marriage
Sisters by Blood & Marriage (Image by alexis22578 via flickr)

This is me decompressing. Writing. This is me thinking about the kitchen that I would like tidied, the floors swept, and bread to make tomorrow. This is me thinking about the new tasks I’ll be asked to perform at work. This is me anticipating the challenge. This is me trying to embrace the details and think of organization that will work for me so that I don’t lose the details. This is me, the one who’d rather be in bed, reading.

The next several months will prove to be interesting if nothing else.

I caught Gabrielle Hamilton interview with Charlie Rose the other night. She’s the recent author of Blood, Bones & Butter, a book many local foodies have recommended. She told Charlie in response to a balance question that she gave that up long ago. One day the restaurant got the best of her. The next day her family got the best of her. And, the day after that, her writing got the best of her.

To me, that is a sort of balance. When I define balance, I don’t mean every day in perfect proportion. In fact, that’d make me crazy. I mean, my time is devoted to everything that demands it in ways where needs are met. That means Levi gets the attention he needs. That means my husband gets the attention he needs. It means my paid work gets what it needs, while my volunteer projects get what they need. My volunteer projects and work are in part for me – but the thing I often forget about – is me. This is something many mothers claim as a trait. So, lastly, ensuring I get what I need.

This means raising self-awareness within myself and my family. It means realizing, recognizing, and enforcing boundaries. Balance, to me, is learning all those things and more.

I am excited to see how the next few months will challenge me. I need a new challenge. This is when you should be careful what you wish for.

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