Wednesday, June 28, 2017

On the Bench is Where Character is Built


About 25 years ago, I was at my first assignment in Japan. The only other lieutenant in the squadron was the intel flight commander. We had the two busiest flights, but as the only lieutenants, we got ALL of the additional duties. He and his lovely wife Nancy were battle buddies for sure, as many great memories were made at that assignment both on duty and off :-) Spring ahead to today and that lieutenant is the commissioner of my daughter's rugby club, here in Northern Virginia. Amazing, huh? Nancy is an incredible interior designer (who's stunning work has appeared in the Washington Post), and they have four handsome sons. It's been so great reconnecting with them.

Their youngest son just participated in a national rugby tournament, representing Virginia.  It was a 0-0 tie until the last minute, and they won! So amazing. Nancy had a wonderful take on the excitement of the final game, Her words were so wonderful, I asked if I could share them:

Thinking about my son and his exhilarating finish yesterday and it's making me think. Most people go their whole entire lives without even having an opportunity like that - whether it's the game-saving home run, the last second shot at the buzzer, or being the star of the musical, hearing thunderous applause and knowing you, even for a few seconds, have the limelight. There's a lot riding on it, I mean, you could fail; and then you feel disproportionately responsible. But when you don't, and it all works out, the reward is so incredibly sweet. But most of us never even have that moment that could go either way. Most of us are supporting cast. Most of us ride the bench more than we want to. And I was never really in sports or performing, but watching my kids and their friends, I have learned one huge thing. On the bench is where character is built. It takes so much strength to be part of a team or cast when you are not the star, and especially when you know you never will be. You can't always control the luck of opportunity, but you can control your own character. So here's to the kids that show up week after week saying put me in, Coach. Here's to the dancers in the back row. Here's to the chorus member who will never be the soloist, the violinist who will never be first chair. You've got serious mojo and I think you are the bomb!

I've seen a lot of posts lately in the women officer forum I'm part of about concerns when being moved into a job that seems like a side step, and not a step up. The wonderful thoughts of my friend go for these situations too. Sometimes in life, your job is to take on the unglamorous task so that others can shine and succeed. You will learn so much in this role, trust me. Your teammates (family members, co-workers, fellow volunteers...) notice more than you realize. And you are the bomb :-)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Taxi Taxi


Yesterday my daughter and I happened to be driving home from downtown DC in after work traffic. As we creeped along, talking about whether we had time for her to go home before practice, I said, "Oh girlie, the years I have shaved off of my life stressing about getting to work on time and getting home in time to pick you and your brother up from day care."

She laughed and said, "Remember the time you picked us up in a taxi?"

I had completely forgotten, but the memory came back in a flash. Metro had stopped or was broken or something, and time was ticking, so I left the Metro station and jumped in the first empty taxi. It was probably already after 5, and traffic was particularly ugly. I had wanted the taxi to drop me off at the station where my car was parked, but it was getting closer to 6, the day care witching hour, and I didn't have cash to pay him. This was in the pre-uber, app, credit cards accepted everywhere days. There was no way I could have him stop at an ATM, then drop me at my car, and make it by 6. So I redirected him to our pre-school, and left him idling in the parking lot while I went inside to pick up my kids, Then I had him stop at an ATM, then I had him take us all back to my car. He must have thought I was crazy. I tipped him generously, of course.

It makes me smile thinking about it now, because even though I was likely very stressed, my kids thought it was great fun.  As young suburban kids, they hadn't ridden in many taxis, and they giggled over the adventure of it.

Laughing with my daughter over the craziness of Mom arriving in a taxi helped me remember that the ups and downs of parenting, the fuss and the worry and the joy, all average out to pretty darn good.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Congratulations! Now What?


A few weeks ago I came across a great post full of the kinds of advice I could have used way long ago when I was a brand new Air Force Lieutenant off to my first real assignment in Japan. The lingo might seem AF-centric but keep reading (for my civilian readers, a sponsor is someone assigned to welcome you and help you get settled in your new job/community).  Stephanie graciously agreed to let me repost it, because really it would be so helpful for anyone starting a new adventure.  Stephanie has a great new blog you should check out, Wilson Wonders.  Enjoy!


Greetings to all new Lts or first time movers...I wrote this for some people and decided to share (it is a bit long)...hope it helps:
When your sponsor sucks:
I hope that no one is greeted by his or her squadron poorly – but as a realist, I know it happens. I had a great person as my first sponsor (as we became good friends later) but she was a sucky sponsor.
My intro went something like:
1. I was left alone in a hotel in MT (yes – Montana)…knowing no one…not even told what uniform combo to wear the first day or where the office was.
2. I was getting paid as a SrA instead of a 2Lt for my first 5 months – without knowing what to do to get assistance
3. My household goods never made it to my base due to line change in who was responsible for moving it – so no one moved it and it sat in storage for 3 months at my home of record…
I could go on – but let’s just say I speak from experience of a sucky transition!
So first – welcome to our Air Force. It is awesome and amazing and it is also busy and sometimes frustrating – and that is okay.
As someone new to the Air Force – moving in and finding your way is a milestone event and here are some tips I have found (and heard of) for helping make this first move successful.
1. Do you have a sponsor? If so – reach out and bug them. Bother them with questions and make them do their job. Sometimes people truly get busy and mean well, but let the “fog of war (emails)” distract them from this additional duty. Make them stop and pay attention to you and learn what you need. Be your own best advocate.
2. Where do I put my couch? The home search is so unique and individual that you truly need to see what you need and can afford – but there are a variety of sites that can help you. Call the base housing office and they can help you with on base housing and off base housing information. Military by Owner is a good resource as well. I found my first place by whining at clothing sales about how I could not find a location to live – and the checkout lady referred me to her old landlord and he (and the apartment) were fantastic! I found my newest home online/with a friend checking out the neighborhood…and selected sight unseen (eeeek!) but at 14 years in—I had a better idea of what I wanted and did not want in a location. 
3. How do I fit in? As you arrive, take the lay of the land. Do not let anyone’s preconceived opinions dictate yours. Observe the unit the way it observes you and make sure you meet with your direct supervisor, your commander, AND the senior enlisted member who will be your partner in the success/failure of your branch/flight/etc. Stalk the webpage of the base and see what they post as news, what inspections they have completed – or are advertising are coming and (if married) – link you or your spouse to the spouses page so they have a network as well. Spouse/kid transition is an entire post in itself….
4. How do I get paid? Please check your pay and make sure you are getting paid correctly. If you are not –see the First Sgt. they can help you - they work for all Airman not just enlisted and want to help you be successful. Your commander can help in a big way with this as well...do not take a loan on pay you are owed ( my opinion…but hey this whole thing is my opinion!). Make sure the right taxes are being taken out for your state of residence and if you are owed or owe something - make sure that is annotated correctly as well.
5. How do I make a good first Impression? Have your uniform squared away…haircuts and hair do…now is not the time to try that new “thing”…lol. Be you and show what you bring to the fight. Be willing to listen…be willing to listen….be willing to listen and then decided and do. You are not supposed to know everything and you will exhaust yourself if you try to know everything at once. You will become an expert at knowing who to go to, knowing what should be in your head, and knowing what books to reference – it will be fine.
6. Who loves you? Call your parents (or whomever raised you). Let them hear your voice and tell them about this career you have embarked on. You are the service’s biggest recruiter – your friends and family who see you on this journey will remember it as well. They also want to see you succeed.
7. How do I find my niche? Get involved in the community!! I joined my sorority via the Alumnae Chapter…so for the 4 years prior to that, I just worked in the community at large because I wanted to learn where I lived and I like to volunteer. If you have a passion, find the organization that supports it. If there isn’t one, start it. Go out and see the place you reside that may be totally different ( or very similar) to the one you lived in as you grew up. Different is not bad…its just different. Buy the right gear for where you live and press on…you have to create great stories to have great stories to tell later – and those don’t happen staying in your house and not opening your circle of friends.
8. What now?? Have fun. This is the beginning of a career. Whether 5 years, 20 years or 30…enjoy it. You will not only survive but thrive through the ‘turbulant’ move times and be a better leader because of it. Be a better sponsor than what you had…even if yours was great…and help introduce others to our force in a great way!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Fixing Things


So I have posted on and on about the craziness of these last few weeks of the school year. "Enough!" I am scolding myself. But when I thought more about it, I decided it wasn't really the busy-ness that is dragging down my positive attitude, it's my inability to fix something that needs fixing. 

My awesome child is struggling a bit in school. My Air Force training and mamma bear tendencies are colluding to make me crazy as I ask him a barrage of questions about school as soon as I see him in the afternoon and cringe when I look through the electronic grade book. We've vacillated between kindness and understanding and assembling tools to help and putting planned summer activities on the chopping block if things don't improve. No one is happy having another discussion about school.

But here's the deal. It's the silly season of the school year. Kids are either testing, watching movies, or being given an end of year project because the teachers are so done. We've handed him the impossible task of turning around his grades when he'll have little opportunity to do so.  

I can't fix this for him, and I need to take a step back from trying to do so. He needs to do it himself. The family standard is 100% effort, and missing assignments are still a crime, but the rest is up to him to fix.

UPDATE: Here is the text I received this afternoon.  There is a glimmer of a spark in there :-)



Monday, May 22, 2017

Life In a Snow Globe

To give you an indication of my current mental state, I offer these texts to my husband (the topic is signing up my daughter for SATs)...


I am way in the weeds these days with all the "end of" and "last" things happening as we enter the last month of school. And also...teenagers. Mine are good ones (I say without bias :-)), and generally have their act together, but there is just so much to keep on top of. I could rail against the crazy over scheduling of kids and heli-parenting, but it's the world we live in. Any sports team, scout troop, theater production, and oh yeah, school, requires complete commitment and more time than they/you might have.

That rant and many other topics for blog posts are swirling in my head, snow globe style, but nothing is settling down into anything coherent.  Until some miracle of metal clarity happens, here are some newly discovered pod casts that you might enjoy. Listening to them is what I do to chill out.

NPR's Up First - it's posted daily and is 10 minutes of the biggest stories and ideas of the day. 

The Big Listen - it's a podcast about pod casts.  It's fun to listen to on its own but also has introduced me to lots of new pod casts. Two I am trying out (and they are vastly different) are Two Dope Queens and The Hilarious World of Depression.

One I tend to listen to when I am on a road trip with my son is Story Corps.  Two recent episodes are standouts: An Experiment and Tough Mother.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Adventure is Out There!


I love to travel. So much. While I like the idea of "going with the flow" and finding unique experiences, I find it so much easier if I know where I am going to sleep every night.  As my kids have gotten bigger, we've figured out that the standard two-doubles-in-one-room just isn't optimal. And having access to a kitchen so we can get coffee and breakfast while still in our PJs is even better, (We are not a family of morning people, trust me on this). Enter AirBnB...



The first time we used AirBnB we got a little burned - we were looking for a place in Paris and kept getting "not available" messages.  Then the place we got - which was perfect in every other way - is now forever known as "the place where I had to sleep on the floor" (my son's refrain). The write up said 1 bed and 1 pull out couch that slept 2, but really it only slept 1, and barely 1 at that.

A couple years went by, and then I decided that we NEEDED to get away over New Years last January, and a place listed on AirBnB popped up in my google search.  I wanted a place that had separate bedrooms for us all, allowed dogs, and was near the beach. The place we found on AirBnB hit all the marks. Next we took a trip up to New York over President's Day weekend to see some colleges for my daughter.  I was lucking out on hotels, but found a quirky house that had room for us all and a kitchen.

So then we decided to forgo the responsible thing to do (use spring break to visit more schools) and went to London and Ireland instead. By now I was getting good at carefully reading the details of available places, and we liked all three we stayed at in London (Hackney), Dublin and County Kerry (Tralee).  What was great is that we gained valuable local knowledge from each of our hosts. By far my favorite place was in County Kerry - the view from the driveway is the picture at the top of this post. It was a very old cottage that had been modernized, but still had low ceilings and funky angles, really awesome!

We have a couple more trips in the queue, and will keep using AirBnB.  You can't beat a 3 bedroom full kitchen situation with most any other standard hotel :-)

PS - this is an unsponsored, unsolicited review.
PPS - if you travel with lots of devices, we highly recommend a multi-port charger.  We used this one, which my husband dubbed "the electronic hooka" :-)  

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Busy Busy Busy


So it's been nearly a month since I posted, lots of stuff going on at our house, fun stuff, work stuff, kid stuff.  I forgot (and forget every year) that the time between spring break and the last day of school tends to be the most packed for us. Some things have been dropped inadvertently (like updating the May schedule for a church activity on May 2nd - oops) but most everyone understands.  I try not to be so wrapped up in it all to not pay attention to the important stuff (key word: try).

That's why I have found it frustrating to have a meeting at work changed to another date, for the third time.  It's not super important, it's not a meeting required to make a major decision, and it's with someone who outranks me.  Really, if we don't meet at all that's cool, but this person does have approval authority for my work schedule, so we should probably meet face-to-face at least once. This is not the only manager I work with that's nearly impossible to meet with due to a packed schedule, and the intent of this post is not to pick on any of them.  I sympathize, truly.

It's rather a reminder to me (and now you) to not fall into the over scheduled trap, in any aspect of your life. Everyone has a point where the level of activity gets so high that you cease to be effective at anything.  And it can creep up on you without you realizing it.

The people around you need your time and attention just as much as those that are demanding your attention outside of your immediate area of responsibility.  At work this is making sure you take care of your subordinates.  Spend time hanging out, keep time open on your schedule, keep your office door open.  This goes for volunteer work also. I am sometimes bad at this - dashing off after a volunteer gig without spending time to connect with my fellow volunteers.

At home this can mean any number of things - dinner at a senior citizen hour because that's when everyone is home, getting up a little earlier to get the dogs a longer walk because they need attention too, going to bed early because you've been burning the candle at both ends, or ignoring e-mails and writing a blog post :-).  Whatever it takes for you.