A new kind of sadness.

I’ve lost people I’ve loved before so I thought I knew how it felt to be incredibly sad. You know, the kind where your heart physically aches and it feels like the world stops for a moment. I dealt with unexpected death when my aunt Kim died at age 49 in 2011 and my grandpa died at age 76 in 2013. I experienced the loss of someone who significantly shaped my personality when my grandma passed away at age 91 in 2012. But, for me, finding out my mom has stage IV lung cancer has been a new kind of sad. I haven’t yet found the words to describe the devastation.

I found out about my mom’s cancer the day I returned from a work trip to China. My mom told me over the phone and it was the kind of conversation where my brain shut down and refused to absorb anything she said. I thought it was the jet lag, but now I know it was the beginning of my emotional rollercoaster that has included denial, hope, anger, and frustration. I never really understood in movies how people’s first reaction to sad news is to be destructive or completely lose all self-control, but when I found out my mom had lung cancer I wanted to smash something. Or throw something. Or both.

I knew it was bad that first day when she told me it had metastasized to her bones, around her heart and along her spine. But, I’ve tried to maintain hope. I had hope that they missed something and it really wasn’t in her bones… but it is. I had hope she would have been in the 7% who are candidates for targeted chemo drugs… but she isn’t. Now I have hope that the chemo will shrink her tumor and the Mayo Clinic will have some cutting edge treatment that will completely cure her.

Deep-down I know that, short of a miracle, the best we can hope for are a few really good years with my mom. It feels like a betrayal to her to say that because I know she needs our strength and positivity to fight. But, when I let my guard down and really think about what we’ve learned about her situation the past few weeks my sadness inevitably creeps in.

I am sad because it’s not fair.

My mom is only 56 years old. She has been to the doctor countless times for back pain or a cough in the past year and they never thought to check for cancer. She quit smoking 16 years ago, lost 50 pounds and became very health-conscious. My grandma smoked for over 75 years and lived until she was 91. This is why I just assumed my mom would live until 90 because that’s how it should work.

That is what is fair.

This is not fair.

I am sad because I just started to understand how much I appreciate her when I had my son last year.

I’ve always loved my mom but I haven’t been great about prioritizing my mom. One thing those closest to me know is I am guilty of living in my own little world. I like to set goals and I become immersed in achieving those goals. School. Work. Running. This means I haven’t always made time for my mom to chat, go shopping or have lunch. I was too busy living in my own world. I realized this last year when I had my son, Luca. I understood that all the love I have for him, she has for me. Having my son has strengthened my relationship with her. I’ve loved sharing my life as a mom with her.

I am sad because my kids won’t get to grow up with such a vibrant and loving grandma.

This has been the hardest for me. I’ve had many wonderful memories with my mom and know we will still have many more together. I will get to cherish those for the rest of my life, but Luca is still so young and will likely know my mom mostly through stories I pass along, pictures I share, and videos we’ve taken.

I am sad because I just am.

I am usually a very positive person. I genuinely believe good things happen to good people. I think society is getting better, not worse. I don’t dwell on what isn’t within our control. So this is new for me. It’s an emotion that is difficult to accept but also difficult to deny. I am trying to cherish the time and memories I have with my mom but also grieving that she could be taken from this world way too soon.

Now, I must wipe my tears away, focus on the good times ahead with my mom, and hope that modern medicine can work its magic.

12 Days That Will Unknowingly Change You Forever

Anna Christina:

This article will take you on a walk down memory lane. These are some of the memories it generated for me:

  • My aunt passed away unexpectedly. I think about her at least a few times a week and am reminded of how much I loved her, miss her, and how fickle life can truly be.
  • I remember the day I was relaxing on my townhome couch, about a month after I bought it, and thought to myself, “On the balance sheet of my life, I now own this incredible asset… all by myself!”
  • I am making my 21 year-old self proud. The long hours at work, piles of homework, and mountain of student loans are paying off.
  • I have fantastic friends I’ve acquired over the years from various points in my life. I’ve purposefully stopped being friends with not-so-fantastic friends and it made me a better person.
  • I felt like I was in Sex & the City when I met Matt. It was exactly as described in this post – I decided to love myself more and ditch the jerks. A month later, I met my wonderful husband.

It’s worth a read (and maybe it will be the catalyst in #1 to change your life).

Originally posted on Thought Catalog:

1. One day, while you’re running on auto-pilot through your daily routine, worrying about whatever it is you deem worthy of concern, questioning the past and considering the future, evaluating yourself with judgment for every way you haven’t lived up to your ideals for the day, a striking thought will cross you. The future is today. This is the life you’ve spent years planning out and waiting for, but you’re not the person you pictured would be living it. It’s in this moment that people make a decision that defines the rest of their lives. They either sit in the remnants of who they could be or they realize that the only person they can accomplish being is who they are on that imperfect, ordinary day. The people who live the happiest lives are the latter.

2. The day you meet your first, not-out-of-convenience, real friend. I’m not talking about…

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Lean In: my takeaways


Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg is the ‘It’ book for women right now. I like to think of myself as a hip person (which is obviously not true since I just used the word “hip”) so I had to read it. Ok, I actually read it because my curiosity was piqued by the range of reviews – it’s great, it’s bad, it blames women too much, it is too idealistic, etc, etc, etc.   

My high-level review of the book is that I would give it 5 stars as an introduction to a topic that requires more depth. Sandberg keeps it high level and shies away from getting more specific about how women can really “lean in”.  What I’m hoping is this book is just a starting point for a more detailed discussion about women in the workplace.  The two most important points of the book for me were that: you still have to pursue the opportunity and women are too hard on each other (this isn’t a new learning for me, but it is always a good reminder to work against this phenomenon).


Connections are important, but you still have to do the work and pursue the opportunity.

It is easy to dismiss Sandberg’s success and, therefore, her advice because 99.9% of women can’t relate to her life. She is COO of Facebook and probably makes more money in one year than the average reader makes in 10 years. (sidenote: I just looked it up – her salary + bonus is probably 10x, but her stock options are akin to winning the lottery)  She has ‘made it’ – and she did so with an Ivy League education and a lot of connections along the way (seriously, who works at the White House while they are still in High School?!).

The reality is these are not good reasons to dismiss her advice.  She is where she is today because she was willing to leverage those connections and, most importantly, to put in the hard work along the way. Her connections and education opened the doors, but she still had to come up with the ideas and do the work that made her successful.  Networking and connections are very important, which I talked about in my last post (way back in February — don’t judge, I’ve been busy!).  But, they are like a resume. They will get you an interview and maybe a job, but they won’t make you good at the job. That is up to you.

I think the more important point she makes in this part of the book is that women tend to make career decisions in anticipation of future events, rather than waiting to see how events unfold. You need to build a good, authentic network and work hard, but first you have to be willing to even pursue the new opportunities. Women have the tendency to go for roles they believe will fit better with married life or family life. She provides an example where one female was worried about this before she had even had a boyfriend! The point she makes is: don’t limit yourself based on assumptions of what it will be like, because you don’t actually know until you try. I’ve worked with some amazing women leaders who also balance a family. It is hard and requires a lot of support from their husbands and family, but they make it work.   


Women need to stop being so hard on each other.

This is so true. This topic is worthy of having its very own chapter in the book. Sandberg covers two main competitions between women: as rivals in the workplace and the mommy wars.

In the first part of the chapter, Sandberg discusses and gives examples of women who undercut each other because they think there is only room for one of them to move up the ladder. I can honestly say I haven’t experienced this kind of female rivalry in the workplace. This could be due to the fact that, up until last month, I worked in a very male dominated function or because I tend to seek out people who have a more positive attitude. I don’t want to dismiss her examples because I’m sure this is true in some environments, but I’d say the rivalry for promotions is not gender specific.  

In the second half of the chapter, Sandberg discusses the divide between mothers who work outside the home and mothers who work inside the home. Once a day, I can count on an article in my Facebook news feed making one of these points: I’m not a bad mom for working outside the home, working inside the home doesn’t mean I just sit on the couch all day, people without kids don’t understand my life as a parent, and people with kids judge my decision not to have kids and don’t take my life seriously. If there isn’t judgment being passed about work choices, then it’s parenting decisions. I’m quite frankly amazed that we don’t have more criminals among us because that is obviously what the wrong sleep strategy or food regimen will create.

I’ll add a third group to what Sandberg discusses: females who aren’t mothers. I don’t have kids, but I have experienced the mommy wars. These are some of the most memorable comments I’ve received personally – “you want someone else to raise your kids so you’ll send them to daycare”, “it’s a fact that kids with two working parents just don’t turn out to be good kids.”, “you will change your mind about your career when you have kids.” Keep in mind that I don’t even have kids and people already have opinions about my parenting decisions that I haven’t even made… because, like I said, I don’t actually have kids (but I do want kids, if that counts). I’m sure these people believe they’re somehow preparing me for parenthood or giving me a different perspective to consider (or they really are just preemptively calling me a bad parent… who knows). 

To tie my tangent back to Lean In, Sandberg concludes the chapter by suggesting that women take life decisions made by other women too personally. I know this well and I’m sure there are a lot more women out there nodding their heads in agreement now. If a woman decides to work at home, it isn’t a reflection of what she thinks about the mom who works outside the home (or vice-versa). If a woman is happy being really good at her job, rather than striving for a CEO position, that decision should be supported and appreciated. The general message is this: rather than finding fault with one another, why don’t we seek to learn from the strengths of one another?


In summary… 

I suggest this book to everyone. Although it is a women’s leadership book, it transcends business and women. The ideas of being present, not being afraid to contribute ideas, and working together to make each other stronger are not gender-specific or business-only lessons. It is a quick and light read, but it forces you to ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I holding myself back because I’m making too many assumptions about what will happen? (just try it and see what happens!)
  • Am I contributing my ideas?
  • Am I building constructive, rather than destructive, relationships in my career and life?

Investing in your network is investing in yourself.

Fair or not, personal connections matter. People like to help someone they know and they like to know the person they’re helping (especially if they’re going to stick their neck out for you). The last time I applied for a job posting I randomly found on the Internet was 10 years ago. It was a part-time job in college as a Customer Service Representative at Ecolab. Since then, all of my jobs have been obtained through personal connections.

I’m sure that makes me sound very lucky or like  someone who is a natural at networking, but the truth is there is nothing out of the ordinary about me. In fact, I don’t like chitchat and I get nervous when approaching people I don’t know. That is why I work in Operations and not Sales. But, you get creative really fast when you’re a college kid staring down $50k of student loans (and that is just from my undergraduate – what a lucky guy my husband is!). I started seeking out people for advice because I wanted to know one thing: How do I get a job after graduation so I can pay off my student loans? What I’ve discovered since then is networking is actually very easy and anyone can do it well if they just stick to the basics.


Rule #1: One-on-one is the most effective way to build a strong network.

I’ve never had any luck at the large events where you wonder if it’s a networking event or cattle call; and you walk away with 15 business cards but no real connections. It is better to meet with someone one-on-one because it is more personal. You don’t have to worry about being interrupted by anyone else and you can pick the time and location. You will also feel more comfortable talking about your experience and asking questions, and they will feel more comfortable providing honest feedback and advice.

Rule #2: You need to ask for a meeting in order for it to happen.

Simple, right? Wrong. This is the part people seem to dread the most, but if you don’t ask it won’t happen. Sometimes people will say no, but most people will say yes because it’s flattering to be asked for advice.

How do you set up the meeting? You figure out if you want to target someone at a certain company, in a certain field, with a certain degree, etc. Then, you find someone to introduce you. That could be a friend, family member, old classmate, or even a Recruiter. Email introductions allow you to think about your wording when you introduce yourself so this is the method I usually prefer.

Rule #3: Don’t only network when you need it.

You should always strive to make personal connections for a few reasons: it’s a good way to learn about different areas in business, new people bring new perspectives to your life, and it makes it easier when you do need help. I’ve found new opportunities through old classmates, people I’ve met at trainings, and casual work acquaintances. I didn’t intend to meet these people because I thought they might be able to help me at some point. I met them because I was genuinely interested in learning about what they do and where they work. In most cases, they reached out to me when they learned about an opening they thought I’d like. If you only network when you need it, you risk missing out on bigger opportunities that might come up when you least expect it.

Rule #4: Stick to the purpose of the meeting and stay positive.

Meeting new people to learn about their job or company isn’t the time to trash your employer or boss. It isn’t even the right time to dwell on personal struggles too much. The purpose of your meeting should be to learn about the person you’re meeting with, share your story, and get advice. You want to give the impression that you have a good outlook on life, have turned your life challenges into motivation, and are easy to get along with.

Rule #5: Return the favor.

If someone wants to meet with you about your job or company, return the favor. It’s only polite.


In addition to these basic rules, you should follow standard etiquette you’d follow with an interview: be on time, send a follow-up thank you email for their time, be prepared to talk about yourself, and ask good questions. Networking or informational interviews shouldn’t feel like an interview, but it is respectful to be prepared with questions and what you want to get out of the meeting.

On the flip side, networking is also a good way for you to see if a company culture, department or boss is someone you wouldn’t want to work with. When I was finishing my MBA, I met with a guy in Strategic Business Development at a large local company for coffee to learn about his job. The guy was 15 minutes late and had that slicked-back hair look about him. He referred to my experience as “back-office” and didn’t seem engaged in anything I had to say. I was so put off by him that I didn’t even apply for the job.

What have you found to be the most effective networking approach? Do you have an awkward networking story you’d like to share?

Vocab Builder: mawkish

mawkish ( môkĭsh)


1. Excessively and objectionally sentimental. 
2. Nauseating or insipid in taste.

How to use it in a sentence:

It is tough to trust whether the affection is genuine when it comes from a mawkish person.

“Honesty is the best policy” turns out to be a wise maxim rather than a mawkish platitude, but only if others follow the same principle. Social trust is a valuable community asset if – but only if – it is warranted. – Robert D Putnam

One night in college that involved too many Seagram’s & 7-UP drinks causes me to cringe when I think of the mawkish drink.


How can Millennials shape America’s future?

There are a lot of articles written about Millennials (also known as Gen Y).  It seems like they are either the worst generation because they are lazy, selfish, and expect too much; or, they are the best generation because they are tech-savvy, entrepreneurial and socially conscious.  What I’m really interested in is this: how can this generation productively shape the future? How can the good (and even the bad) of this generation be used to advance our society?

Since I’m right on the cusp, I can never remember whether I am X or Y so I spent a little time researching the birth years. It’s like the Internet could read my mind because I stumbled upon a quiz titled ‘How Millennial are you?’. I scored 52, which apparently means I’m an average Millennial.  Since I wasn’t tech-savvy enough to figure out what 52 means, I seriously question if I’m very Millennial at all.  I considered this week victorious because I figured out how to schedule my tweets via Hootsuite today… three years after forming my Twitter account.  Yep, I’m a little behind my peers.

Anyway, back on track.  The definition of what birth years make up each generation differs based on organization.  This is how Pew Research Center classifies each generation:

  • Silent: 1928 – 1945
  • Baby Boomer: 1946 – 1964
  • Gen X: 1965 – 1980
  • Gen Y/Millennial: 1981 +  (they list ‘+’ on their website, but it’s generally accepted that it extends through 2000)

The typical Millennial is considered tech-savvy, team-oriented and socially conscious.  According to the Ivey Business Journal, 70% say giving back and being civically engaged is one of their highest priorities. This is an area where I am strongly Millennial. I have worked at companies that were genuinely involved in their community, and I have worked for a company where my boss told me to take a vacation day if I wanted to participate in the Habitat for Humanity company event. It is important to me to work for a company, and to some extent a boss, with values that align closely to mine.

The less desirable traits associated with Millennials are: they seek instant gratification, have short attention spans, are demanding, and are too comfortable sharing (I am definitely a ‘sharer’). Their use of social media typically leads them to have two personalities – an online persona and a real-life persona. It can be easier to express themselves in writing than verbally so their online persona is typically more expressive and witty.  (So that’s why online dating profiles don’t usually match up with the person in real life!)  This reliance on technology can make it difficult to close generational gaps with coworkers because older generations, like the Baby Boomers, are typically more comfortable with face-to-face interaction.


By 2020, Millennials will make up 40-50% of our workforce. What does this mean?  How can this generation shape our future?

Millennials can help close our technical skill gap.

The US has a labor shortage for jobs requiring technical skills. We will face a shortage of 224,000 hi-tech workers by 2018. These are the kinds of jobs we need in the US to invent or develop products that employ thousands of people to manufacture, market and support the product.

Even though Millennials have a low % of student enrolled in STEM programs, they are the most well-educated generation, they are tech-savvy, and entrepreneurial.  These three characteristics will help us continue to innovate.  I will write a post separate post at some point about the importance of students enrolling in STEM programs.  I agree there are risks associated with having low involvement in STEM programs, but I believe other characteristics of Millennials will help us mitigate some of the risks. Mark Zuckerberg is the perfect Millennial example of a tech-savvy entrepreneur who came up with an innovative new product.

Companies will need to become more socially responsible to attract top talent.

Millennials are demanding, socially-conscious, and will make up half the workforce in less than 10 years. This is the ‘everyone wins a trophy’ generation, which isn’t necessarily bad because they are a group of people who feel personally responsible for making their community a better place. There are a lot of companies that already prioritize corporate citizenship. One of my former employers allowed employees up to five days of each year to volunteer, which was in addition to the many volunteer activities offered at work during the year. Millennials will drive this to be the majority of businesses (maybe not this specific policy, but you know what I mean… hopefully).

The workplace will become more flexible.

Millennials want flexible work hours.  Obviously, this will happen within reason.  Companies will still need to ensure people are available when customers need them.  However, what this could mean is location of work becomes more flexible.  Telecommuting increased 61% in the US between 2005 and 2009 and it continues to increase.


Each generation has probably changed the workplace significantly in their own way. The interesting situation with this generation is technology is advancing at a very fast rate. It is now easier and cheaper than ever to find ways to be your own boss. Many Millennials are underemployed or unemployed because they don’t have the experience required to get a job in their field.

We will need to overcome the short attention spans and need for instant gratification if we truly want to achieve our full potential, but overall I am optimistic about how this generation can shape our future. The combination of a creative, tech-savvy group of people who need to make a living could lead to some interesting developments over the next few years.

Your thoughts and comments about the generations are appreciated.  


Minneapolis: the first (real) snow of the season

The Weather Channel is calling it Winter Storm Caesar.  Minnesotans just call it winter.  Whatever you want to call it, we had our first real snow of the season today.  I’m sure Western Minnesotans could put these pictures to shame, but this is the evolution of our patio between 9:30am and 5:30pm today:20121209-172359.jpg



It doesn’t look like much of a change between the last two pictures, but I guess when you pass six inches of snow it’s tough to consider two more inches much of a change.  I really enjoy the snow when I don’t have to drive anywhere.  After our first round of shoveling, I took a walk around our neighborhood to check out the lake and creek.  This is what I found on my walk:20121209-172631.jpg


20121209-172742.jpgI mostly wanted to see how the lake looked with our new snowfall.  I never bother to look at it until I realize it’s already frozen over.  I found some trees and branches struggling under the weight of the snow, as well as some ducks that looked very cold.  20121209-173101.jpg












20121209-173600.jpgThe End.