Monday, March 30, 2015

Asking for help is a gift

I am recovering from some tragic news. My dear friend Maija, who was my daughter's daycare director, died unexpectedly yesterday. I spent yesterday on the phone delivering the news to shocked parents and friends, in between comforting Maija's best friend and business partner.

Then we had to break the news to my daughter and her two close friends. I highly recommend this approach. The kids didn't really seem to absorb it, which I think is for the best. I helped the school compile a quick mailing list to announce the news and to coordinate backup child care for the kids. It wasn't much, but I at least felt useful.

That's me 2nd from left, Maija on the right

Today when I woke up, the news hit me and I hoped it was a bad dream. As it turns out, this is the new normal, and I will have to learn to accept it.

Maija was such a shining light, and she truly, truly loved my child as well as all of those in her care. I never saw her in a bad mood. She was such an amazing, inspiring teacher. My daughter gave her the best possible foundation of education, leadership, and compassion. I broke down in the car yesterday as I recalled Lu's little voice from the back seat, repeating what she'd learned at school that day. "Mommy, some people have brown skin like Miss Maija, and some people have tan skin like me. But we are all the same in our hearts. And we're all special."

When a new girl arrived at the daycare, Lu at first had a difficult time adjusting. She complained to Miss Maija that she was no longer the only Smart Start princess. Maija's response was so perfect. She told Lu that now she was the queen, and she had to be an ambassador to the new princess, and show her the rules. This was absolutely the best way to approach the situation with my princess-obsessed daughter. All this on the fly with other children competing for her attention. When Maija called me to relay the story, my eyes flooded with tears to have found such a compassionate woman and role model to teach my child.

One more story about the amazing legacy Maija has left. This Christmas, I made a few canvas bags with a photo from Lucy and her friend Max's photo printed on them. Lu was helping me to wrap them. I got out the wrapping paper and started to cut when Lu said to me, "Mommy, these bags are empty. Miss Maija and Miss T need supplies for the school so that the kids can do art. We need to fill the bags with glue sticks, paper, stickers scissors, and glitter." I was so proud of Lu and of everything her school had taught her. We stopped wrapping to drive to the store and pick up the supplies, and her teachers loved the gift.

This morning, I realized that I actually had to function today. I signed up to volunteer at Boys and Girls Club, to show them how to use some GoldieBlox toys I purchased for them through a grant from the Mitchell Institute. I am going today because I know that Maija would have wanted me to be strong for those kids.

Lu's current school had their big fundraiser on Saturday, for which I coordinated the silent auction. I had several emails to follow up to make sure everyone got their items, on top of an already busy week including a conference. So I made a rare choice. I decided to ask for help.

This morning, I emailed 2 parents to explain about Maija's passing, and asked if they might be able to do the auction follow up. They both accepted without hesitation.

Then I rushed downstairs to get Lu out the door for school. I searched frantically for my water bottle, knowing I was already late to drop her off. I couldn't locate my usual plastic squeeze bottle, but what I found instead was even better.

My eyes landed upon a gift bag. A local friend and mindfulness speaker Kate had gifted me a lovely glass water bottle inside last week when she came to speak at my company. It was aptly labeled full circle.

How perfect a circle this is, I thought. My daycare provider friend asked me for help yesterday dealing with the loss of her friend and business partner, and I dropped everything to help. This morning, I was helped twice, by my parent friends and by Kate, who allowed me to stay hydrated today. It helped me so much to cope with my sadness by helping out my daycare provider. It feels good to help.

So please, don't hesitate to ask for help. What you need is right in front of you.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

You can turn it off?

I'm a big advocate of going on vacation. I'm fortunate to work for a company with a generous vacation policy and I never leave any on the table. Going on vacation, especially to a new place, inspires me, gives me much-needed time to reconnect with family and friends, and leaves me feeling enegerized and excited about coming back to work.

Ft. Myers Beach, my most recent vacation

However, I find it critical to really unplug during my short time away from the office. My key colleagues have my mobile phone number, so they can always reach me in an emergency. I'd rather just sort through my inbox upon my return than sift through a bunch of work-related mails while on the beach. It just stresses me out to know every detail of what's going on, and I'd rather be present at my vacation location: maybe people watch or become engrossed in my latest beach read.

I've written previously about how to turn off the annoying badge app icons on your iPhone. Today's tip is how you can completely turn off your work email and calendar so that you don't get pop-up notifications for meetings that are happening during your absence.

First, go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars. 

Click on your account (e.g., if you have Microsoft, it's Exchange).

Slide the green bar to the left to temporarily deactivate your mail, calendar, or reminders.

Then, just reverse the process on your first day back in the office.

I hope this allows you to enjoy your vacation time off to its fullest extent!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

My 15 minutes of fame

I recently had the opportunity to publicly comment on a couple of subjects near and dear to my heart. The first was regarding the townhouse where we live. Boston Magazine interviewed me as a renter in Roslindale. I heard about the project on my local moms' forum and offered to be interviewed, since I really enjoy our newly rented townhouse and have had a fantastic experience with our landlady.

My family was a really good sport about the photo shoot, and we ended up with a lovely family photo.


My second recent media experience was with my company, EMC, at my daughter's school. They were producing a video montage for International Women's Day on the theme "Make it Happen." I had posted on my company's internal wiki about my volunteering efforts for the Hour of Code, and I received an email asking if I was interested in being in the video.

EMC TV came to my daughter's school last week to film me teaching the Hour of Code to the 5th grade students and interviewed me on the project and the importance of volunteering. The kids loved learning about coding using the Frozen game I taught, and they did so well advancing to the higher levels of the game. I wrote all about the Hour of Code in this blog post.

Here is the link to the EMC video for International Women's Day. It's currently on the home page of I feel so fortunate to work for an amazing company that not only allows, but encourages, my volunteering efforts. Go EMC!