Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

Redefining Successful Women

In For the Stilletos, Relationships on March 16, 2012 at 12:15 PM

I’m going to stay on this topic of common bonds and connections and take us to our next topic.  I recently attended a session, a powerful session that discussed this very same issue.  As part of Women’s International Day, my workplace brought in Sophia Nelson, author of the book, Black Woman Redefined.  Although this is the topic of her book, the discussion was not just about black women but all women and how we all need to define or redefine ourselves within various aspects of life.  Of course, I completely agree with this platform for similar reasons that she mentioned in her talk.  Namely, we, as women cannot move forward if we are continuously being defined by the likes of “Real Housewives” or “Basketball Wives”.  (I’ll save that discussion for another day, as there is definitely a hot issue that surrounds the “media women” of today).  Considering that we were in a corporate environment, however, the discussion centered on redefining yourself in the workplace.  Although women in this country are over 50% of the population, make up more than 57% of the professional work force and earn over 52% of professional degrees, their positions within the workplace are grossly disparate with respect to such statistics.  And for women of color, the statistics are even more staggering.

While women are recruited for their talent, educational accomplishments and overall prowess, their development, pay and overall treatment in corporate America often leaves them plagued with frustration.  Even in 2012, women are still not matched dollar for dollar on the payroll and the average female worker loses approximately $434,000 in wages over a 40-year period as a direct result of pay inequities See, Arons, Jessica, “Lifetime Losses: The Career Wage Gap”, Center for American Progress, December 2008.

Retention is one of the biggest issues for women and even more so for women of color, Nelson reported.  For many of you, like myself, who have witnessed the inner walls of the Fortune 500 companies, these statements are no surprise.  We see us at the entry-level positions.  We may even see us in upper management and executive ranks (that we had to claw and work thrice as hard to obtain).  But, honestly, when you think about the numbers (over 50%) and then you look at the Executives and the Board of Directors for these companies, the numbers are not equally reflective.  Why is that?

Oh there are so many reasons and I’m sure I’ll follow this article up with several discussions to address the “whys” of corporate America, but for now, let’s just focus on this idea of common bonds and connections.  As a woman, particularly a woman of color, specifically a woman of color who is a patent lawyer (yes, the statistics just narrowed to less than 2%), walking into a room full of white men is nothing new.  From the legal side, women account for about 33% of the legal field and from the science side, women are less than 12% of scientists and engineers.  (Again, for women of color, these numbers decrease significantly).  Despite these daunting statistics that I carry on my back daily, I have to say that I have had some pretty pleasant experiences when I enter a room of predominantly white, male scientist who are basically my clients within the company.  (Considering that my name is “Kenya”, it should be no surprise when I enter a room as a black woman giving a face to the voice of reason that has been helping them to move their business forward over the phone).  Finding a common bond here is usually relatively easy since first, there is a more collaborative dynamic as service to client and second, not too many people share a fascination with polymer chemistry.  But what happens when I enter a room filled with colleagues or leaders who have a direct impact and influence on my career and, better yet, have nothing in common with any aspect of me except that we work at the same company?  There is no client-service relationship.  Instead, a hierarchical relationship may exist.  So now what?

As I stated in a previous article, we have more in common than not.  I truly believe that and approach everyone with this mantra.  I challenge myself constantly to find a person with whom I cannot find a common bond.  I challenge you to do the same.  It may appear impossible or you may think, “Kenya, you’re taking this ‘Love Revolution’ too far now”.  But, honestly, I try not to meet a stranger.  I learned this from watching my oldest daughter interact with people who she meets.  Certainly she’s a little shyer in her younger years but it doesn’t take but a few minutes to begin talking to someone as if she’s met them before.  There’s something to be said about that kind of confidence.  I also believe EVERYONE is essentially human.  They put their pants on one pant leg at a time.  Maybe they jump into them but the end result is the same.  While a level of respect is given should I meet my company’s CEO or other executive officer, I don’t, however, feel that respect equates to a level of fear.  True.  Some people in “ranks” are simply unapproachable and operate from atop a mound that looks down upon their underlings.  Although I find this military style of power to be dwindling as companies are becoming more successful under the younger, more approachable CEOs like Tony Hsieh of Zappos or Larry Page of Google, certainly there are still a few leaders left from the generation of yesteryear.  They operate based on fear and that style tends to trickle down as the model for management.  Fear in this regard is just a manifestation of differences.  Remember what I said previously about differences?  Common bonds are more powerful.  So, if you find yourself amongst those who are just so different and seem so unapproachable because you don’t see commonality, shake their hand, smile, make a connection that way and anyway.  Break that barrier!  If you don’t get a chance to talk and determine what you have in common, you’d be surprise how far a smile will take you.  Not returning the grimace or not adding to the fear and the manifestation of differences will help you focus on the work at hand and the issue that brought you into the same room.  Again, don’t dwell on the differences.  So what, you’re the only woman in the room.  Move and work towards what has brought you to that room.  If you operate on fear, it will undermine your value and ultimately undermine your presence.  Don’t undermine your presence.  You are there for a reason.  Show it.

Additionally, as part of her talk, Nelson focused on the things women can do to change the game of women in the workforce and shift the present paradigm:

Find a sponsor. This is distinct from a mentor.  This is your connector.  This is the person who helps to build the relationships that will be crucial to the success and advancement of your career.  They are the ones that can help make the connections that will break those awkward or fearful introductions.  A sponsor will boast of your talents and put you in front of the people who can help your success.

Find a mentor.  This is different than a sponsor.  A mentor is the traditional guide and advisor of your career.  This is a person with whom you will have more interactions in comparison to your sponsor.  You will have a closer relationship with your mentor and this person will be more of a role model with whom you can bounce ideas off of.

Know your value.  Live by your ethical standards and integrity.  Understand what it is you do well, what matters most to you, and what enables you to thrive and be fulfilled without compromising those standards and integrity.  I can only hope that those days of Mad Men for women in the workplace are over.  You know what I’m talking about!

Live the 3 “S’s”. Savvy. Style. Substance. These are three things that make up who we are as individuals.  Understand what your unique business style is, how to incorporate it into the working world, and use it to build meaningful relationships with power players so that you can stand out.

Define.  Redefine. Connect.  Succeed.  That’s What’s Up!



In Family, Relationships on March 15, 2012 at 12:59 PM

Connection.  What a powerful word.  Imagine if it were used more frequently between individuals.  It seems that as a society, we have found a way to have less connection amongst each other even though we have some of the most state-of-the art technology that even George Jetson couldn’t have dreamt.  We have the ability to connect with people with the touch of a button; talk with people face-to-face while being positioned on opposing sides of the world; or even send a thought to the world by a communication that only a bird was known to do.  We have the technological ability to connect in more ways than we ever imagined yet we are the most disconnected society that I have yet to witness.  And, while I’m not even close to being old enough to have “seen it all”, as a GenX-er, I have been a part of a generation that has evolved with the rapid change of time and tech.  Yes, we are more disconnected today than twenty years ago and the gap is seeming to widen every day.

So what’s driving this?  What is causing the disconnect when we have the means to connect and even re-connect?  Remember when I spoke about common bonds and difference barriers?  I believe that the tools we have inherited from the genius minds of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zukerberg, Jack Dorsey, et. al. , and the like have ultimately allowed us to bury ourselves in the corners of our worlds and merely connect solely through devices.  And, through our devices, not only do we disconnect from many human attributes such as eye contact, touch, presence, environment, we disconnect from the most human aspect of all – common bonds.  With our disconnected connections, we are able to think we are sharing in our world because we involve ourselves in a communication mechanism that crosses county lines, state lines and even oceans.  So, because we’re able to reach across channels that we couldn’t reach 15 years ago without a major bill from MCI, we think we’re doing something.  We think we’re connected.  We’re tweeting and facebooking and LinkedIn and YouTubed and Meeting Up and texting and all that.  We’ve got more social media connections than we do time.  Yet, we fall into this dichotomy of disconnected connections.  With all the means and platforms out there to connect shouldn’t we be more bonded and living the true meaning of this being a “small world”?

For the most part, the world has become connected through the advancement of technology, but as individuals, I believe we have become so disconnected because instead of using our devices to leverage our bonds and connect to different people or cultures that we may not otherwise experience, we, as a society, use these devices and platforms as difference barriers that we hide behind.   It’s easier to throw a rock at a man while standing behind a fence than to stand directly in front of that man and throw the same rock at him.  (Of course, I’m speaking in general and not in consideration for the inhumane and evil souls that will “throw a rock” at whomever, whenever).  Our devices have somehow become a means for disengaging and focusing on issues that divide us so that we can throw rocks.  People can tweet some pretty bold and crazy remarks or write an audacious status on Facebook but that same person would never say the same to a persons face.  Some of these same people can’t even speak in public or even ask a question in a meeting because they’re afraid to speak or can’t find the words to express themselves.  (Again, I’m generalizing for those who are open by any means, but we all know these people.)  And, unfortunately, most of these people aren’t offering words of wisdom as Wilson did in Home Improvement (Tim Allen’s neighbor who was usually behind a fence, was multi-cultural in travels and studies, and used such knowledge to share wisdom and help resolve Tim’s problems). If only Wilson was able to tweet such words of wisdom to the world.

Do not get me wrong.  I love my devices.  I love social media.  But, I also love connections.  Real connections.  Connections that are even made through these devices.  Connections that bring the human element out of those devices and turn them into bonds.  Connections that plan parties, reunions, book clubs and bring people face to face.  Actual connections.  When we use the devices as a means for connectivity, we optimize the benefits and opportunities to create meaningful bonds that coat our human existence.  We form momentous relationships that can tear down barriers of differences.  We connect.

We don’t need to ban our tools and devices for connection.  But, we must learn to use them as a leverage for bridging our society together and forming the bonds that we all have in common.  As I shared before, we have way more in common than we have in differences.  Don’t let our means for greater connectivity be the means for disengaged, disconnected existence.  Let’s not hide behind our devices as the barriers of differences but leverage our platforms as bringing forth that common element.  COexist! COnnect.  Notice how those two words are even bonded in similarities.  Find your “CO” in each other.

Connections. Make a real one today.  That’s What’s Up!

The Common Denominator

In Relationships on March 13, 2012 at 12:01 AM

It’s a lot easier to find the common denominator in another individual than what society may have led us to believe.  You’d be surprised how we are all interconnected as human beings.  It used to be “six degrees of separation” but honestly, now, with the help of modern technology; we can see it’s really only three or four degrees.  We have more things in common with each other than we have differences.  Commonality is a bond.  Differences are barriers.  They are weak barriers that are meant to be broken down.  This is why we use the word “common bond”.   No one that I know of ever uses the terminology “difference bond”.  Why is that?  It’s because differences don’t bind us.  They are not bonds.  They are weak barriers that people cling to in order to justify their discriminate and indifferent behaviors.  They are deflating life rafts that will cause people within those rafts to sink and go nowhere.  Commonality, common characteristics and similarities, on the other hand, are bonds.  Common bonds are what bring us closer together.  They bind us in conversations, relationships, and human existence.  They are the strength of human fulfillment.

You bond with people with whom you share things in common.  As soon as you find that connection, you click.  You don’t even focus on your differences, as they seem to dissipate in significance as you find more similarities to which you strengthen your bond.  And, while differences may ultimately drive a wedge between people with whom you once had a connection, the original common bond that brought you together will always hold the greater strength.  And, if it is so desired, that common bond can even melt the wedge of difference, overcome what ever drove you apart, reconnect you and move you forward.  The power of common bond is greater than differences and can prevail when given the chance.

It sounds simple to focus on our bonds rather than our differences.  The reality, however, is that for many, it’s just easier to see differences and justify the non-existence of our relationship.  Particularly when the differences are more apparent, there’s not even a need for many of us to enter into the same room.  I’m black, you’re white; I’m a woman, you’re a man; I’m straight, you’re gay; I’m Christian, you’re Muslim; I’m tall, you’re short, I’m able-bodied, you’re handicapped; I’m dark, you’re light; I’m young, you’re old; I’m old, you’re young…the list goes on.  This is the reality of differences.  It’s easy, more comfortable, more familiar to stand with what you know than to take the risk that your apparent differences will overshadow any chance of discovering common connections.  But, I am confident that if we take that risk and walk into that room full of apparent differences, we can uncover and discover at least one common bond that makes an overpowering connection.  It only takes one link, one knot of similarity to melt that degree of difference.  I think Kevin Costner summed it up best when he spoke at Whitney Houston’s funeral.  He shared a list of differences that seemingly overshadowed any thought of connection but it was that one common bond that they chose to focus on that not only brought them together for a lifetime of friendship; but it brought a whole nation together to witness broken down barriers on the silver screen.  Had they not found church as their common denominator, the life of Kevin Costner, Whitney Houston, the movie, “The Bodyguard” and the soundtrack will have taken a turn that I would be willing to bet would not have been so successful.

So, as we enter into this month of March and we look to something that will inspire our continuous “12 for 12 Love Revolution”, I challenge you to find the common denominator in people you meet.  Find the common denominator when you come across someone who you are pretty sure has NOTHING in common with you.  And, if all else fails, smile!  At the end of the day we can all smile.  And, no matter what, we all smile in the same language.

Common Bonds.  We have more in common than not.  That’s What’s Up!

For the Love of King

In Family, Relationships on January 16, 2012 at 12:01 AM

“Man must evolve for all human conflict a method, which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We give thanks and honor to the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.   For the life he lived and the service he gave to our country, he has left a true legacy that we all can admire and want to follow.  While we, as a country, have come a long way in living his “dream”, I think most would agree that for each step that we have taken, we have also and unfortunately taken at least two steps back.  In one step we’ve made a significant stride in history to elect our first African-American president, Barack Obama.  Over the last four years, however, of his presidency, we’ve also stood witness to the most racist and disrespectful rants that any president has had to face.  It is true that many presidents have had to face public outcry and backlash that challenge their decisions and policies.  (This will and always will be the game of politics).  But, no president has had to withstand racial slurs, be compared to a monkey and had to face congressional opposition that seems to defy the rationale of rising up a nation in pursuit of the consistent, historical standards of hatred, bigotry and disgust.  Mind you, this article isn’t a political rant of who’s right and who’s wrong but merely exemplifies the comings and goings of a nation who has seemingly divided the goals of Dr. King.  No matter your political party affiliation, beliefs or votes, no one can say with sincere honesty that we’ve reached “the mountaintop” with race relations in our country.

We’ve also taken a significant stride forward with the women who have taken positions of power in our nation.  Women such as Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton and Condoleeza Rice are just a few of the most recent women whom I believe lives the legacy of Dr. King.  I think he would be proud that such opportunities were given to these women despite their gender, their race or both.  Again, regardless of what people think of these women personally or politically, their mark in our history can never be underestimated or overlooked.  And, in keeping the message consistent in providing a counter to what these women have given to our country, you can turn on ANY television channel today to see the “two steps back” for women.  Nene Leakes, however, pretty much says it all.

Again, this article isn’t about politics.  It’s about the strides that our nation has taken to live out the legacy and life of Dr. King.  If he were alive today, what would he have to say about the state of our nation?  Again, I think he would take a breath of exhilaration and smile proudly on one hand.  There are many aspects of this nation that are unbelievably great compared to that of almost 45 years ago.  On the other hand, I’m pretty sure that he would agree that there is much more work to be done as injustice still continues to prevail and scorch this great nation.  And, “an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

As we move forward in our 2012 Resolution to start our “12 for 12 Love Revolution”, I encourage everyone to take the time to continue the legacy and love of Dr. King.  Find a reason to “reject revenge, aggression and retaliation” for acts of faith, devotion and love.  Seek meditation, understanding and the lesson God is trying to show you when things may not go right, seem unfair or unjust.  Although this is easier said than done, it is not impossible to seek or achieve.  Believe me, I, myself have had the love, the faith and the “King” tested in various forms throughout my life.  But, during those times, it has been my faith and my self-respecting love that has allowed me to abide by the principles and life of Dr. King and push through to  “let no man pull you low enough to hate him.”  Thus, I try to live life and serve as the symbol of strength that only a woman of faith could endure.  And, so, in continuing in the legacy of Dr. King’s love, I leave you with this last quote that may help you stand strong when facing those who may challenge your spirit of humanity.  Remember his words and follow in your own faith with your heart.

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

May will all continue in the legacy of Dr. King with unconditional love.

Dr. King.  Thank you.  That’s What’s Up!

But the Greatest of These is Love

In Family, Relationships on January 1, 2012 at 12:01 AM

Can you believe it’s already 2012?  Wow.  I don’t know about you but 2011 seemed to fly by without any regard.  Hopefully it was a good year for you.  And, if you’ve had better, let’s just hope that 2012 makes up for the shortcoming.

This is our 15th year of celebrating the New Year as a couple.  Bringing in the year 1997 was our new beginning.  And, while we thought dating our best friend may be a good thing, admittedly, I don’t think either of us would have thought about all that we have seen and done together over the years.  Most of all, I’m sure we wouldn’t have imagined that 15 years later we would be brining in the new year with a trip to the American Girl Atlanta store and a cabin at Lake Lanier with our three little girls.  Yeah, things are quite different from fifteen years ago.

But, as we reflect on those years, there’s not much either of us would change.  There have been some good times, some not so good times, and just about everything in between.  There has been a lot of growth between us.  Obviously, our family has grown, our home has grown, and yes, even our waistlines have grown.  But, through it all, our most important growth is our relationship.  And, by “growth”, I actually mean “growing” for it is a constant evolution of learning, friendship and dedication.

Not only is today the beginning of a new year, but it is also the last of the seven principles of Kwanzaa (Nguzo Saba).  It is the day of Imani (Faith).  The seventh principle gives us a profound belief in and commitment to all that is of value to us beginning with God.  Through Him, we know that all things are possible.  Through Him, we know that we exist individually, united as a couple and together as a family.  Faith in ourselves and in our family allows us to step into this new year with the belief and hope for a better year.  We give thanks for all that we have endured in the past year, all that we have experienced and all that we have yet to become.  We have hope for all that God has planned for us and believe that our year will be filled with opportunities that will allow us to contribute to our society and give to our family the support, care and goodness needed to be better in our lives.

While the new year is a popular time to make resolutions, go on fad diets and quit old habits, we think simplicity is key to a new year. Fresh starts don’t have to be complex or full of struggles.  Nor do they have to be filled with empty promises that will probably fade by March.  Just as we did 15 years ago, we continue to do year to year.  Simply love.  Love yourself.  Love another.  Just love.  Imagine if everyone made that their 2012 goal.  Imagine what our world would look like if we really resorted to just loving one another, loving ourselves and living our life with that simple four letter word.  It doesn’t mean we end our differences or our individuality.  It just means that we don’t look at those things as obstacles for continuing to walk together.  It means that we embrace each other, our likes and differences as He would want us to do.

So, for the next 12 months.  Find a way to show Love.  We’ll call it our “12 for 12”!  Each month, find a way to show L-O-V-E.  Show it to a friend, your neighbor, your community, even yourself.  It doesn’t matter what you do or how you do it.  JUST LOVE!  Please come back and leave us your comments letting us know how you have shared your love each month.  Forget the resolutions, let’s start a Love Revolution!

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.”  1 Corinthians 13:13

Love!  That’s What’s Up!

Y’all Have a Lot of Love

In Family, Relationships on December 28, 2011 at 9:00 AM

Where have you all been?

Yes.  This is the question of the day and every day for the past two months.  And, rightfully so.  We kind of just fell off.  And, how could we fall off in the midst of so many things to discuss?  Let’s see.  It’s been about 2 months since our last blog relating to using Skype to stay connected to love ones while traveling.  And, then……silence.

Well, in case you’re wondering.  No, we didn’t follow in the footsteps of the ever so anticipated and ever so predictable mockery of a marriage and divorce of Kim Kardashian.  (No, really, I had soooo many things to say about that unnecessary and overrated madness.)  We didn’t go into a multi-million dollar stand-off with the likes of the NBA.  (Have we worked out who owns who and who can go where and whether owners can keep the locked chains on players?)  And, fortunately, Kenya was not added to the highly detested Herman Cain groped list. (I guess his 9-9-9 plan forgot to mention the 9 women in 9 days with 9 cases.  Seriously, Herman?)  Basically, we did what all bloggers do – get busy with life, have random thoughts floating in our heads and great discussions that we should share but never get the chance to sit down to type, and then we get a moment to breathe and the year is almost over. Yep.  That’s pretty much it.  No excuses.  This is the life of two people who really do live and try to share their lives with others.  At least you now know we are real and live by the same 24 hours in a day like you all do.

One thing that did happen that we’d love to share because one, that’s the point of the blog and two, we had such a great time and received the greatest compliments that it’s only appropriate to share:  our Thanksgiving 2011.

Considering we just celebrated a wonderful Christmas with our immediate family of us and the kids, for Thanksgiving, as we have done in the past, we extended our home beyond our Fab Five and filled our home with the greatest of love and fun.  As stated, we’ve done Thanksgiving like this before, but for some reason, this time just seemed more so.  Maybe it was because we almost had the entire family or maybe it was because we were joined by new friends.  But, mostly, we just had lots of fun.  Our greatest compliment we received that evening was “thank you for sharing your family.  Y’all have a lot of love.”  And, while this may be something that is so simple and something that we embrace constantly, we both had to pause and give thanks for just that.  Love.

Our evening began with our children putting on a play/narrative with ma-maw about how we give thanks that highlighted the theme: “We give thanks for our family”.  Then, of course, we filled our bellies with the best of the edible delights where we all pitched in to contribute to the ever-so-yummy spread.  That, in of itself, is a blessing as no one, particularly Kenya as the host, is left in the kitchen alone.  But, we, as a family share in making a feast to be enjoyed by all.  Just that alone makes for a joyous occasion.  Then we ate, we sang, we danced and the best part of the night was watching ma-maw be transformed into “Lil G’Ma” as we watched her debut rap video.  Now, anyone who knows Mrs. Pierre can only imagine how entertaining this was as we all looked up at the television and watched her rap about her rolls and coneys.

Fun. Laughs. And Love.  That’s What’s Up.

Planes, Trains, Faith……and Skype

In Family, Kids, Relationships, Travel on October 21, 2011 at 12:01 AM

Well, we’ve had a bit of some down time over the past month.  Actually, we wish “down time” was the theme.  In fact, it was quite the opposite as both of us embarked on coast-to-coast travels.  Some business, some pleasure, but most of all, just gone!

So, we often get the question, what happens when our agenda calls for one, and in the rare instance, both of us to be away and still manage the house with three children?  “But for the grace of God, go I”.  We have to first give credit where credit is always due and this is simply just how we live our lives.  We are blessed and filled with a loving family and a plethora of friends who help to keep the “village” of our world in tact.  There are no “superhuman” powers we possess or “craziness” that we engage in; we simply have great faith and blessings.  So, over the course of our travels and the past month, we have had our home filled with family and friends to help out in the many ways we have needed and allow for seamless transitions as we packed, unpacked and re-packed our bags.  And, I think because we share our home with the grace and love that God has so blessed us with, I don’t think it comes as a surprise that the energy that we give is brought back to us twice more.  For if you’ve ever visited “Chateau Pierre” or even just joined us for a drink and/or a game of pool at “The Spot” at Chateau Pierre, then you know, our home is your home.  (Just be sure to book early because rooms are usually occupied on the weekends).  Seriously.

In addition to the love that we so humbly embrace each day from within and without, we are also thankful for the modern day technology that allows us to connect and ease any worries of our children.  Some of you may already do this when you travel, but surprisingly, there are many (like ourselves before 2 years ago), that just didn’t even think of it.  So, we offer you another tip/reminder, that when you travel, take full advantage of Skype.

With modern computers coming standard with cameras, phones with camera and internet capabilities, iPad2 and other tablets that integrate a camera, there is no better way to say “hello” than through today’s technology that brings The Jetsons to life.  Sometimes, we check in and just say hi, other times we’ll read a book together, we’ve laid down together or sometimes the girls just want to tell us all about their day face to face.  They get a kick out of it and honestly, we do too because it definitely helps to break up the trip that we’re on and eases the “business” of being on the road.

Most of the time, our personal computers are left at home and therefore, we access Skype through our mobile devices.  Considering your kids may or may not know how to access Skype or they are left with, let’s just say “not so computer savvy” sitters, be sure to set the Skype up before you leave.  We have also set up two accounts so that we know all IDs and passwords to access and give directions.  For the most part, it’s just a matter of pushing the icon and you’re there.  Make a video call and you’re on your way.  Pretty cool.  Costs you nothing.  And, can make all the difference in the world to you and your loved ones.

While we don’t really travel much, when we do, this is one of the ways we cope.  Of course, nothing takes the place of holding your child/ren and/or spouse in your arms but this sure beats having to wonder “just how messed up is her hair after daddy did it”?  Now, you’ll know! 😉

The Jetsons have come alive!  Skype!  That’s What’s Up!

Celebrate Love

In Family, Relationships on August 7, 2011 at 12:01 AM

In the midst of a society filled with reprehensible relationships and meaningless marriages highlighted by many of our current reality television shows, it was nice to witness the exact opposite this weekend.  We spent our weekend amongst family and friends who gathered to celebrate the thirty year anniversary of our aunt and uncle.  As you can imagine, thirty years doesn’t come easy no matter who you are and from what generation you were born.  But, for those who are fortunate to see the love of such years, this weekend showed that it definitely comes with rewards.  As their children thanked them for their sacrifices of unconditional love and friends shared stories of times together, you began to understand what got them this far.  It wasn’t just love (after all, didn’t Tina ask us “what’s love got to do with it”), but it goes far beyond affairs of the heart.  Love gets you to the altar but it is true friendship and respect that gets you to thirty years.
If there was a relationship that we’ve tried to model ourselves after, the union of uncle Jimmy and auntie Darlene may be the one.  Surely they may have had their private struggles together and moments of turmoil as any relationship will endure, but what we’ve always witnessed was a true dedication to family and the simplest of love and good times.  There home was always filled with their children and their children’s friends coming and going into the house.  No matter the time or day, the doors to their home swung open with embrace and welcome.  It was definitely a central hang out and a place where nights would begin, end or both.  No matter how many people were already there, however, uncle Jimmy and auntie Darlene could always make room for more.  That’s the kind of love that has been exemplified in their home and through their actions.  Again, this is exhibited between them, through their children and obviously thirty years later.
At Friday’s dinner, one of their children, our cousin, commented on the fact that many people referred to their family as the Huxtables.  She stated that considering that they didn’t really have much money growing up or the home of our favorite TV family, she never knew why.  Well, clearly it’s easier to see this comparison from the outside as we could probably summarize their family style the same.  Just as money can’t buy love, money can’t build families or the memories that this family shares.  At least from what we witnessed, time-shared, lots of laughter, travels and friendships upon friendships provided many of the luxuries and riches that would put most financially wealthy families to shame.  Just as the Huxtables honored family, emphasized the importance of education and valued time with friends and family, uncle Jimmy and auntie Darlene honed the same traditions that made the side-by-side comparisons of family values justified.
With our twelve year anniversary just behind us, we know that we’ve only skimmed the surface of thirty years.  We can only hope that as we continue to enjoy our friendship and love, overcome our obstacles and conquer the challenges of raising a family that we can do it with the grace and effortlessness of our aunt and uncle.  This weekend taught us not only can love last but it deserves to be celebrated.  We can only hope that in eighteen years, our children can celebrate in our love and reward us with stories of gratitude and loving pride.  We hope that our years ahead continue to be surrounded by family and friends, nurtured by the love of our children and grow into an inseparable friendship that doesn’t necessarily reflect the Huxtables, but rather that of our uncle Jimmy and aunt Darlene.

Thirty years of marriage.  That’s What’s Up!

Reset, Refresh, Renew

In Relationships on July 14, 2011 at 12:01 AM

As parents, there never really is a “day off”.  If you’re not at work, then you’re on your second, maybe even third job as a parent.  There are no paid sick leaves and a paid vacation only means that you’ve saved up enough money to deemed the vacation as paid for.  As rewarding as this job is, it is also one that will wear you down and have you rapping DMX lyrics about losing your mind.  Yeah, parenting can be tough in the midst of all the other things going on in your life and in the world.  So, in an effort to combat this, we came up with a nice routine that gives us a few hours each week to simply reset and take a little time out for ourselves.

We are both part of organizations that require after-work meetings one day a month.  Kenya has a board meeting the first Tuesday of the month while Dennis meets the first Wednesday.  With this schedule, we naturally decided to assign “reset” days accordingly.  On Tuesday, Dennis will get the girls and make sure they make it from school/camp to bed.  Homework, after school activities, dinner, etc…. are all taken care of by him alone on this day.  On Wednesday, Kenya does the same without hesitation about Dennis pitching in.  This time designated for each other not only develops a consistent routine but it also helps to set aside time to get personal matters done.  Whether it be a day to work late, a night to catch up with a friend or two, getting hair done or cut, or simply running errands that didn’t get completed over the weekend, the designated day leaves time open to get things done without the feeling of burdening your spouse with an unexpected request.  This is not to say that days can never be switched or friends can’t be met on a day like Thursday but if you know you have a day, you just try to manage doing everything on that day. For those that say they can never work out, make this your day even if it is once a week to finally indulge that gym membership or that free walking trail.  Additionally, respect is still in order as this is not a means to go and hang out all night like you’re 17 and mom just gave you the keys to the car.  This is merely a moment to reset and refresh.  We still check in with each other to let each other know where we’ll be if we haven’t said so before or to let each other know when we’ll be home.  So, while there’s really no “curfew”, we typically get home prior to 11p in time to settle and kiss each other good night.

Thursdays are supposed to be set for “date night” and “supposed” is used because, admittedly, we have not been as good about keeping this under as strict of a routine.  It may be because we’re so used to sporadically going out that we don’t take the time to actually plan when we’ll spend time together.  We just do it.  We’re working on it.  And, for us, a date night is just as well spent sitting together on the sofa and watching a TV show together or sitting at the bar and shooting pool.  Whatever it may be, a date can be done without calling a sitter and leaving the house.  We began reading a book together and so we designated Thursdays to have discussions about what we read (yes, sort of like a book club).  Well, again, we’re working on it (smile).

Nevertheless, we suggest following through with it and setting aside time to snuggle up close with your spouse and just talk.   Whether you talk about a book or your day, over drinks or over popcorn, just set aside time to hang out.  We’ve known each other since 1990 and there are still things we are learning about each other (and ourselves) as we have both grown and evolved into very different people from 20+ years ago.  In order that we continue to grow together, communication is key.  Many couples may find themselves like passing ships in the night.  We’ve done it ourselves.  And, this is why it’s important to recognize the need to throw down your anchors and take some time to talk and laugh.

We’re all busy.  Even if you don’t have children, your life can get busy.  So when you do add children into the mix, your time isn’t necessarily yours any more.  We suggest you take some time for yourself and each other.  If once a week doesn’t work, try every other week or heck, even once a month is better than nothing.  The point is set aside time for yourself even if it means just going to a park or the mall for a short walk.  Then take time with each other.  Put the kids to bed and just sit on some chairs or the stoop and say “hi”.  Whatever time you can steal away from your parenting duties just do so.  Try to make it a consistent routine and look forward to those days for just some “me time” and even some “we time”.

Reset.  That’s What’s Up!