Four Things to Do With Your Gal Pals This Galentine’s Day – Even in a Pandemic.

Friendship is a form of self-care. It combats loneliness, spurs laughter and joy, helps us process complex emotions, and allows us to be truly ourselves. In the middle of a pandemic, where most of us feel alone, sad, anxious, stressed, or bored (among lots of other emotions) on a regular basis – we need friendship more than ever.

Yet, new research is suggesting that the pandemic is changing our social networks and friendships. People are shrinking their social circles and have less day-to-day interaction with their friends, than ever before. While that alone is troubling, studies also suggest that women are bearing the brunt of the caregiving responsibilities during the pandemic. The CDC reports that two out of every three caregivers are women. They also indicate that women who are caregivers, “have a greater risk for poor physical and mental health, including depression and anxiety.” #awesome.

Ladies we need friendship time, now, more than ever. Thank goodness it’s almost Galentine’s Day. Galentine’s Day, a holiday created by Amy Poehler’s character, Leslie Knope on Parks & Recreation, is a day intended to celebrate and spend time with your gal pals. It’s only the best day of the year!


Galentine’s Day, a holiday created by Amy Poehler’s character, Leslie Knope on Parks & Recreation, is a day intended to celebrate and spend time with your gal pals.


I know what you’re thinking…

I wish I could hang with my gal pals this Galentine’s Day. That sounds awesome…but…pandemic.

or

If I have to sit on one more Zoom Happy Hour and listen to 20 people talk over each other for an hour, I’ll scream.

I feel both of those statements on a personal level and I know many of you do, too. I’d like to offer some remedies:

Four Ways to Hang with Your Gal Pals This Galentine’s Day without a Zoom.

  1. “Essential Dates”. My first essential date happened almost by accident. I was texting with one of my best girl friends. We were discussing how much we missed each other. I mentioned a need to go to Target for a few essential things and she mentioned she had something to return. I suggested we perhaps go to Target at the exact same time. We met up, after the kids were in bed. Target was empty at 8:30 p.m. on a weeknight. We wore our masks, had separate carts, and casually browsed every inch of that Target for almost 2 hours. It was pure heaven. Many of us are going to the grocery store or running a few essential errands on a daily basis; Why not ask if a gal pal wants to meet you there? Who said grocery shopping can’t be fun? I already have plans for a Galentine’s Day Essential Date to Target with my best gal pal. Maybe that’s lame, but it was something I needed more than I even knew.
  2. Face-to-FaceTime. I spend a LOT of time sitting in my car. Waiting in drive-thrus, school pick-ups, while my daugther is at her socially distant dance class, picking up carry out, etc. I use that time to FaceTime a friend or family member to catch up – even if for only 10 minutes. Friendship isn’t built through Zoom parties or even small group conversations. Friendship is built through one-on-one meaningful conversation. It’s built through intentional questions and radical listening. Try using some of your car time to check in with a lady friend or schedule time to get face-to-FaceTime, instead of mindlessly scrolling through the Netflix menu at night. You won’t regret that time connecting with a friend, unless you haven’t seen Bridgerton yet.
  3. Garage Party! Some of you are lucky enough to not live in the frozen tundra that is the upper half of the US right now, #jealous. Try a small gathering of close lady friends on a patio or garage. A friend and I did this a couple months ago. She and I sat apart from each other in the garage one morning, sipped coffee, and caught up. For those of you lucky enough to still be outside right now in quazi-tolerable temperatures, there’s lots of ways to connect with your lady pals outside (but please, make sure to still mask up and keep it under five people)! Try something that gets your heart pumping or your legs moving – after all the CDC did say we’re at risk for poor physical health…
  4. Parking Lot Drive-Ups. It’s cold here in Indiana. Leaving the confines of my car when its 18 degrees and snowing is not my idea of a good time, no matter who I’m talking to. Recently, a gal pal and I met in parking lot and pulled up window to window (still 6 feet apart and masked). We rolled our windows down and chatted with each other for over an hour – in the comfort of our warm vehicles. We chose a parking lot that wasn’t full at that particular time of day and sat way in the back away from any other cars. It was great to physically see each other and warm my tooshy at the same time.

You might have caught on by now, but there are lots of ways for us to see our lady pals and still socially distance. I recommend ACTUALLY taking the time to be one-on-one with your friends. Those interactions are far more powerful than group happy hours, zoom parties, and large gatherings. The conversations are more focused, meaningful, and revitalizing. While I enjoy a good group text filled with memes that feel all-too-relatable, spending time in meaningful conversation with each other fills my bucket WAY more.

So, make time for your lady pals this Galentine’s Day. You might not realize how much you actually need it.

So, You Wanna Be an Ally for Women?

Here’s the thing, allyship is hard and it’s messy. It requires one to risk the consequences of standing up for women in patriarchal environments. It’s not as simple as just “building relationships” with more women or publicly promoting their work.  The truth is, creating systemic and cultural change within any organization is hard – and it takes a long time.

If you’re just now casually dipping your toe in the “ally waters”, you might start with building more relationships with women at work, attending events hosted by women’s organizations, or even promoting the work of women or women-owned businesses.  That’s a start.

If you want to wade on down to the deep end of the pool, we welcome you.  That work is a little more challenging and requires a lot more risk.  If you want to be an ally, here’s where you might go next:

  • Intentionally seek out women to listen and hear their stories of harassment, bias, and mistreatment in the workplace – and believe them.  It’s common for men to be totally oblivious to the injustices women – and particularly BIPOC women – face in the workplace.  We often hear male leaders say, “we don’t have a problem with harassment or bias. We have no reports of it.”  The truth is the data tells a different story.  It’s happening; it’s just going unreported by most women (because of fear of retaliation).  A great step would be to start trying to understand the experiences of women at work – and believing them when they tell you.
  • In meetings that you have control over, ensure that female (and historically marginalized) voices are equitably represented and are given equal voice. It’s easy to just call a meeting and invite the usual suspects. Allyship asks us to challenge the status quo and take hard look at the people in the room. What voices are missing? We know that diverse teams are more creative and more successful. If you’re calling the meeting – you get to decide how diverse the room is.
  • In meetings where you are a participant, pay attention to the women in the room. Are they sharing? Are they being interrupted? Are their ideas given equal weight and consideration? If not, use your privilege to ensure those voices are heard, their ideas are considered, and credit is given.
  • In hiring practices, don’t settle for a pool of male candidates because your hiring managers said, “this was the best talent available”. Require diverse candidates and more than one woman in the hiring pool. A recent study discovered that when there is only one woman in the hiring pool, there is statistically no chance she will be hired.  But when the pool increases to two women, she has a 50/50 shot.  Push your recruiters to look harder for talented women and demand more diverse hiring pools.
  • Ask women you supervise, what their career goals are, what roadblocks or hurdles they’re currently facing, and then use your privilege to help remove them.  Studies show that too few women are being sponsored by male supervisors and leaders, and as a result aren’t getting high stakes assignments and promotions that are critical to advancement into senior leadership roles.
  • Connect women to powerful men in your organization and network through personal introductions, not just casual ones.
  • Every time you have a negative reaction to something a woman says or how she says it, asking yourself, “would I be reacting this way if it was a man?” Confronting our own personal bias is critical to allyship. If you’re not sure if bias is at play, take the time to build a relationship with that woman or talk through your interaction with her to raise your own awareness.

Allyship shows up in places where no one is watching, when there’s no women present, when there’s no other allies in the room. Allyship speaks up and shuts down the comments, the bias, and asks why there are not women in the room when decisions are being made.

Allyship makes space for women at tables they’re not at. It ensures women are in the room. It uses personal privilege to make space for more female voices. It doesn’t settle for the status quo and it demands greater diversity, greater equality (and equity) in every room they are privileged enough to sit in.

This is allyship.

Allyship is not exclusive to men and in fact, women need just as many female allies, as male ones.  Cultural and systemic change requires constant and persistent effort by lots of individuals to truly make the shift. So whether you’re new to ally conversation or in the deep end of the pool, we welcome you to the work of allyship.


What Led Me to Here.

No female career is linear.  

In the last six months, I’ve talked to countless female executive leaders about their career journeys.  I’ve learned that, like mine, their career took a winding and imperfect road.  The paths that led us to where we are today were filled with hard decisions, big risks, struggle, perseverance, tears, and lots of detours.

Two years ago, I made a choice to leave a job I loved, at a company I helped build, with people who were like family, in an industry that I was passionate about, doing the work that felt like my destiny.  It was the hardest decision I ever made – and the easiest one – at the same time.

At the time, I was at what I thought was the pinnacle of my career.  I had worked hard most of my professional life to build a personal brand for excellence, innovation, authenticity, honesty, and a willingness to say the things that needed to be said – even when it was scary and even when it was hard to hear.  Alongside that personal brand, I helped to build a company with a strong reputation for being a industry leader, a partner, an innovator, and an organization dedicated to improving the lives of our clients.  

I ran full speed at my goals, often without coming up for air.  I was dedicated, passionate, and driven.  By my 34th birthday, I had achieved 95% of everything I had imagined for my career.  Then I looked up and there was nowhere left to go.  I had climbed every mountain, circumvented every obstacle, achieved pretty much every success I had imagined for myself – now all I had to do was not. screw. it. up.  

In that same year, we adopted our daughter.  I worked every day during her 13-day stay at the hospital after she was born and when she finally came home, I took less than a month of maternity leave. As she was turning 10 weeks old, I left for a 22-day work trip. 

I hated myself.  

I’m not proud of those decisions, but at the time, my judgement was so clouded, I couldn’t see how damaging those choices – and the path that I was on – were to me as a person, as well as all the women who were watching me, looking up to me, mirroring me.

My decisions became driven by fear: fear of failing as a CEO, fear of disappointing the owners, fear of judgement as an industry leader, fear of disappointing people who looked up to me.  Combine that fear with boredom, loneliness, a lack of challenge, and an overwhelming feeling that my life was meant for more than what I was currently doing – I found myself listless, dissatisfied, and anxious.

By the time our son was born, three years later, I didn’t recognize myself.  While I thought I had everything I wanted, I felt surprisingly empty inside.  While I was busy building my career – I had forgotten to build a life.  I had no hobbies.  I had no connection to my local community.  I had barely a handful of friends that weren’t also clients or coworkers, and I could count on two hands the number of times I had actually put my suitcase away in the last couple of years.  I was rarely physically present for my partner, my children, my family or friends – and when I was physically there – I was rarely there mentally. 

I felt exhausted and empty.  

I knew things had to change, so I blew the whistle.  I told the owners, “it’s time to talk exit strategy.”  I was afraid to leave, but also knew things would never be different in my life unless I did.  While I envisioned a 12-18 month transition, the owners envisioned 90-days.  With the words, “We think your last day should be October 5th,” I felt like the bottom had fallen out of my life and everything I had worked so hard for was leaking out all over the floor with no chance of stopping it. I was devastated, afraid, angry.

I didn’t think I was ready.  At the time, I didn’t know that I was.

That seems to be the theme.  In so many of my conversations with executive women, I hear a similar story – a common comment of “I feel like everything in my career has led me up to this point.”

I was ready.  Everything in my life and in my career had led me up to this point – and prepared me for what was next.  

It prepared me to understand that work-life balance was paramount for me.  It helped me realize that I wanted hobbies, a connection to my local community, and to be home and present for my family, my children, my friends.  It taught me how to say, “no,” and set better boundaries around the things that were most important to me. Now every morning I get to walk my daughter to school, make dinner at night, and have wine with my girlfriends on the weekend.  I get to volunteer, serve on committees in the business community, and be connected in ways I never dreamed I could be.  I’ve never had any of that – at any time – in my adult life – until now.

My winding road led me to and prepared me for what was next for me in my career, too.  It helped me realize that I care about advancing women and minority populations in the workplace. It helped me see corporate problems with a higher ed lens – and solve those problems differently. Now I get to do the work that really matters to me – on my terms.  

My career path prepared me to be a business owner – a role I never knew I really wanted – until I had the opportunity to buy the company I work for this year. Amid a global pandemic and an economic crisis, I bought a 57-year old business. So much of what I learned in my CEO role at my last company and what I’ve learned from the owners of each, have prepared me to build a business – my way.  While the over-achiever in me is ready to launch a new plan, vision, and do a bunch of marketing – my experiences have taught me to slow down, be thoughtful, and understand that things take time.

This winding road led me here – to a place I didn’t know existed.  To a place where I feel more myself than I ever have – a version of me I didn’t know I was missing.  This level-5 Type A control freak tried to have a plan – and it didn’t work.  As it turns out, there was a better plan for me along the crazy journey called my career – and my life.

So for all my gal pals out there reading this – don’t get discouraged by the bumps in the road – or even the detours.  These things take time.  The path you are on – and will be on – always leads you to exactly where you need to be.

My fellow Type A control freaks might be thinking, “That’s some fluffy ass bullcocky. Tell me what I can actually DO to be successful.”  Well, here’s my advice: 

Work hard.  Take chances.  Seek out opportunities.  Advocate for what you want.  Learn. Grow. Reflect.  Ask yourself the hard questions and don’t be afraid of the answers – even when you don’t like them.  Stop doing it, if it doesn’t serve you. Don’t get discouraged when life or your career takes you off your intended plan – just make a new plan. Keep. Going.  You’ll get there as long as you don’t quit.  Everything else will work itself out.


but…

I’ve been hearing a lot of women in my universe say things like,

but we’re healthy, so I’m grateful for that.”

It usually comes after a string of complaints about how shitty 2020 has been, all the things we’ve had to cancel, and all the things that are different-bad because of COVID, the political landscape, the economy, etc. It’s almost like we feel guilty for being angry, upset, sad, disappointed, frustrated, anxious, scared, or depressed because of things like cancelled vacations, missed birthdays, postponed weddings, and a whole host of other things like dwindling social lives, lack of in-person school, non-existent work-life balance…

…but we have our health.

You’re right…many of us are lucky enough to have not been personally impacted by COVID-19. We should feel grateful for that.

But we can also feel sad and grieve the things we’ve lost – even if they’re things that aren’t as seemingly important as our health. You can absolutely feel sad that your vacation had to be cancelled. You can totally be upset that colleagues and friends have lost their jobs. You can be heartbroken over missed birthdays, weddings, parties, family visits, hugs, smiles, meals…

You can feel all the things you’re feeling…and also be grateful for your health.

I’m just here to give you permission to express both…simultaneously…without worry that you’re being a jerk.

This is really really hard. You don’t have to qualify those feelings with “but…”


Find Your Flow in a Quarantine

I’ve been grumpy and unproductive. I find myself looking back at my long work days and wondering what I accomplished except for sitting in front of my computer on video calls all day – and responding to emails. I haven’t had an ounce of creativity. I’ve been longing for the days where I could get into “the zone” and hammer out pages of content, blogs, course work like I used to – before the quarantine. I dream about the times where everything in the world around me would just melt away and my creative juices would flow.

Then, I started seeing a bunch or articles about “finding your flow in quarantine”. I payed little attention to them until my Wellness Wednesday interview with Yoga Therapist, Leanne Matullo. During the interview, she talked about using the early morning time to care for her Energy Kosha (check out the interview its awesome). I thought to myself, “I love the early morning too. I’m so productive.” Then it clicked. I’ve been sleeping in – and I’m constantly distracted and interrupted all day long. No wonder I not getting anything creative achieved!

When I came to this realization, I decided to track how many times I was interrupted throughout the day – and what the interruption was for. I stopped tracking after an hour, because in a hour’s time, I was interrupted 11 times. For a little levity, here they are:

  • “Mommy can I watch Pocahontas again?”
  • “Mommy I’m still hungry (while her breakfast sits uneaten at the kitchen counter).”
  • The dogs wanted to go outside.
  • “Mommy, can we invite the dogs to my birthday party?”
  • My husband coming to the main floor to make a snack and as a result felt the need to discuss the news.
  • “Look at my feet Mommy!”
  • “Uhhh mommy…there’s something weird in the toilet.” Which required me to get up and go look, then spend time explaining what’s in poop.
  • A lengthy discussion where my daughter asked me if she could wear the summer dress she asked to wear earlier this morning and I already told her she couldn’t because it was too cold, but she wanted to ask for a 4th time in case I changed my mind.
  • “Mommy are there going to be lots of people at my birthday party?”
  • Interruption on a video call by my daughter to show me and everyone else the cool car she was playing with.
  • The dogs need to go outside…again.

Between the dogs, my daughter, my husband, and the constant housework that stares at me all day, I haven’t been able to find an uninterrupted hour in the last two months – much less a large chunk of time that would allow me to get into my flow and actually create something. That’s why I was cranky. That’s why I constantly feel like I get NOTHING done during the day.

I need to find my flow.

Psychology defines “flow” as, “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus and enjoyment”. We’ve all felt this before: We’re working on something and the distractions melt away, you’re highly productive and time passes in a blink of an eye. When you stop, you don’t feel exhausted you feel invigorated, happy, proud, accomplished.

I feel that when I’m creating and writing – when I am producing good content to put out into the world. I’ve done very little of that in the past two months.

So what does it take to get into a Flow State? I did a little research and found that generally, experts agree that the following “triggers” or things need to occur to prompt a flow state:

1. Eliminate All Distractions: This is the core advice of finding flow and when I read it I thought, well shit, I’m doomed. When I’ve been in a flow state before, I have removed all my distractions. I’ve turned off my internet on my computer, put my phone on do not disturb, cleared my calendar, alerted my colleagues I was going to be unavailable, and left the house and headed to a coffee shop, library, or coworking space where I didn’t know anyone. The absence of distractions allowed me to stay focused and not get diverted by an email or phone call. Eliminating distractions now – in quarantine – feels literally impossible.

2. Work at Your “Biological Peak Time”: For me that time is early in the morning until about 12 or 1 p.m. I’m a wasteland of productivity after 2 p.m. every single day of the week. If I want to flow, I have to get at it early in the morning. I honestly do some of my very best work rolling out of bed at 5 a.m. and plopping in front of a computer almost immediately. I think it doesn’t give me time to get distracted by anything else – and I get into my flow quickly and easily. I save the mindless or easy tasks for the afternoon. The ones I can do easily, with or without distractions, without energized focus.

3. Work on a Singular, Specific Task that is Challenging, But Not Too Challenging: Every time I have been able to get into my flow state, I am focused on writing a singular chunk of curriculum or a blog on a specific topic. You can’t sit down and say, “I’m going to write a book” or “I’m going to solve global hunger.” That will leave you more anxious than productive – and as a result you won’t get into your flow state.

4. Have a Clear Outcome or Goal: These days I have 100 goals and a creative to-do list a mile long. I feel paralyzed by it – which is probably why I’ve been able to achieve none of it. I need to pick one, singular chunk of curriculum or content and focus on finishing it in one sitting. The outcome has to be achievable in a single sitting and if it can’t, it needs to be chunked up into smaller goals – so that you can see AND reach the finish line in a reasonable amount of time.

5. Create a Mental Trigger: Mental triggers are essentially something you do every time you sit down to get into a flow state – that way your brain starts to build a habit sequence around that action. It allows you to get into your flow state more quickly. I’ve been writing and creating for so long that I know I have two key triggers – and both include a great cup of coffee.

One is sitting down at a coffee shop. I generally hate working from coffee shops. They’re loud and you can’t take phone calls. The internet is spotty and it’s sometimes impossible to find place to sit down and spread out without feeling guilty about it. My favorite spot has ample seating and the BEST coffee in town (Noble Coffee). I’m a sucker for their Highlander Grog brew and their plethora of seating options. My brain knows when I sit down there, with a piping hot cup of coffee, that it’s time to write. My other trigger is getting up insanely early (between 4 and 5 a.m. ) and sitting down at my dining room table with my laptop and a cup of fresh brew. In the past, I’ve generally used this trigger when there’s an impending deadline that I need to meet. I use this time a lot to create speaking outlines or prepare for presentations. I do some of my best work in the wee hours of the morning, in the silence of my dining room.

All of this research helped me realize what I need to do to feel more productive and get back into my flow. As I write this blog, I’m sitting in the silence of my dining room at an insanely early hour with a great cup of coffee. While I can only dream about the days when I’ll return to my favorite coffee shop, I’ve committed to using the early morning hours at home for creativity and writing. I already feel better. As Leanne asked at the end of our interview together, “What does Bliss feel like to me?” This is bliss.

The question now becomes, “What’s blocking you from finding your flow?”