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House of Cards

Uber had been a darling of the business world for the past couple of years.  When my youngest son and I along with his best friend and his mom found ourselves stranded with a couple of strangers at a seedy motel in Union City, GA at 2:00 am.   The hotel shuttle dropped us off assuring us we could use our vouchers there.  Upon dropping us of at the hotel, the driver collected his kickback and promptly departed.  No sooner had the driver left, when the hotel clerk informed us that they did not accept Southwest’s travel vouchers.  As the others in the party argued with the hotel clerk, we sat off in the corner with the kids watching as several pimps and their hoes walked in and out of the hotel.   There was no way in hell that we were going to stay out of the hotel, but getting a taxi outside of the city was difficult.  A businesswomen from Milwaukee, called us two Ubers and booked us hotel rooms as a hotel closer to the airport.  Thank god for her and for Uber.

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The past couple of months for Uber, much like that night for us, have been nothing but an unmitigated disaster culminating yesterday with the departure of Uber’s CEO.  I was reading an article in the paper the other day about the state of Uber and how one blog post has brought the once might company to its knees.  In her blog post, Susan Fowler described her very strange year as an employee of Uber.  This blog post recounted a number of issues at the company including explicit sexual harassment, career sabotage and gender discrimination to name a few.  This blog post by a former engineer ended up going viral setting off a number of earth shaking events at the company.

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The lesson for bloggers is that your words matter and your voices can be heard, so use the platform wisely and judiciously.   For corporate leaders, consider how your run your teams and your organizations.  If your employees were to write a blog post on your leadership, what would they say?  Would they recount stories similar to Susan Fowler’s?  Leadership is rarely glamorous and often thankless, but when people are treated with respect and made to feel value their opinions of their leaders and organizations will reflect it.  Build an organization on respect, valued employees and principled leadership and you won’t find yourself leading an organization built on a house of cards.

 

For further reading on the Uber debacle:

https://www.inc.com/justin-bariso/how-a-single-courageous-voice-led-ubers-ceo-to-resign.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/22/technology/uber-workplace-culture.html

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jun/22/uber-cto-thuan-pham-susan-fowler-travis-kalanick

 

Celebrating 18 Years of Jake

Today my oldest turned 18!!!  As I sit here and try to figure out where time has gone, I can’t help but think of how proud I am of the man he has become.   I am also amazed that well he is now 18 years old, I don’t look a day older than the day I delivered him.  Amazing, I know!

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The fact that he’s now an adult has thrown me for quite a loop.  Although the benefits are many, I no longer have to pay the unaccompanied minor fee when the boys travel to Minnesota without us.  There’s $150 saved!  He can finally buy a lottery ticket, however, he informed me today he felt his money would be better spent on stocks.  I’ll be referring him to Garth’s new book for some great pointers as he starts his investment journey.

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This evening he brought Alexis to figure skating and she had some great gems for him including this nugget of gold.  He needs to get a better job, so he can drive her in the limo she deserves.  She definitely takes after her dad John.  She also shared her plan to go to college and then get a good job, so she can buy a limo to be driven around in.  I have to say I love her style!

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Jake and his brothers enjoyed a nice dinner Sushi Yama and some Arrested Development.  We had an awesome cake from Menchies with a hodgepodge of number candles after the Mayor failed to deliver his ear wax candle he had promised Jacob earlier.  I’m sure Jacob more than a bit relieved that the Mayor failed to deliver the candle he promised would smell both like a fart and his ear.

 

In a little over two weeks, Jacob and I will head down to Miami to see Paul McCartney.  I’m thrilled that my son’s dream gift was tickets to see one of my idols.  As a Beatles fan since childhood, this concert is a dream for both Jake and I.     Happy birthday Jake!!!!

 

To Be Or Not To Be

When the question is whether or not to be a helicopter parent, the answer is always not to be.  Helicopter parents aren’t something I remember from my youth.  I cannot recall a time where numerous parent volunteers populated the halls and the classroom my elementary school, but it is the case at my children’s school.

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While there’s nothing wrong with volunteering in our kids classroom, it isn’t healthy when you’re child goes off to kindergarten and you go too.  I remember when Goalielocks was in kindergarten he had a classmate whose mom was literally in class as a volunteer every single day.  While it was awesome that she was able to help the teacher every day, it wasn’t healthy for her child to have her in class every day.

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While my brothers and I were in middle school and high school, my parents were always there to support us, but they allowed us to make decisions and make mistakes.   My parents were never involved in any of our relationships and certainly never orchestrated any of them.  Present day, we parents like to meddle in our kids relationships, in our kids’ grades and all aspects of their lives.

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The problem is if we handle every issue, every bump in the road our kids face, they will never learn to overcome obstacles on their own.  This leaves them ill prepared for the obstacles they’ll face in their adult lives.  As hard as it is to watch the stumble, we have to let them stumble and make mistakes.  It is through these mistakes that they’ll learn critical thinking skills, that failure is okay and that we all make mistakes.  Life lessons they’ll take forward into their adult life that are invaluable.   The alternative of course is that we smother them as a helicopter parent and they turnout like Buster from Arrested Development.

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Sage Advice

With my oldest about to turn 18, gulp, there have been a lot of talks in our house about the future and paving a path forward in life.  The beautiful thing about high school graduation is that it is a clean, fresh start.  A chance to take all that has been learned and forge forward into new learnings and to creating a life for ourselves.  Even though most of us are slightly past high school graduation, maybe more than slightly, the advice is still pertinent.   Here are three pieces of sage advice that can benefit us all.

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First, whatever path you choose in life, whatever profession you choose do it well.   Take pride in our craft and pour your heart and soul into it.  To give it any less would be to short change yourself of both your full potential and opportunities.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson eloquently wrote, “a man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise shall give him no peace.”

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Secondly, don’t be afraid to choose the path less traveled.  It is easy to follow the herd and a path that has been freshly cleared, but it is not always rewarding.  This will make being passionate about what you do difficult.  Blaze your own trail.

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Lastly, the biggest challenge and the biggest accomplishment is to be authentically you.  There is a constant pull, amplified by social media, for you to fit a certain mold.  The pressure to dress and look like celebrities and influences is unending.  The pressure to be the perfect spouse or parent is suffocating.  Never mind  the fact the definition of perfect parent depends on which day of the week it is, what season it may be and the time of day.   If you try to keep up with the ever evolving standards, you’ll drive yourself crazy.  If on the other hand you remain true to yourself, you can keep your sanity and should feel a great sense of accomplishment.

Happy Father’s Day!!!

“One father is more than a one hundred schoolmasters.”  This quote from George Herbert, 17th century English poet and orator perfectly sums up the role and the importance of fathers in our children’s lives.  In modern society, we place (with good reason) a lot of emphasis on the importance of motherhood while not always paying much attention to the role a strong father plays.

 

My brothers and I were fortunate to have grown up with a father who was always here for us and instrumental in our lives.  He shared with us his love of music, military history, aviation and Dr. Who.   Give my parents a call today and you may hear his music blaring in the background.

When my mom was working second shift, I learned to cook by helping him make dinner on those days.  I cherish those memories.  My dad has always treated my mom as an equal and has always supported her, her goals and her career.  My dad’s love for my mom and for us kids was always on display.  To this day, my dad still carries the pink comb I gave him when I was in preschool.

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Now that we are older and have kids of our own, our kids get to call him Grandpa.  My oldest brother and I both have kids, who absolutely adore him.  What’s even better is that my kids have a father, who is exceptional.  My hubby is an amazing dad, who is devoted to me and our kids.  He’s volunteered as a coach on their hockey teams since they started in 2010.  Some seasons he’s been on the roster of all three of their travel teams, which is a huge investment of time.

 

He’s taken the time to show them how to fish, how to build and how to be men.  When I work late, he cooks amazing dinners, helps with the homework and takes them to hockey practice.  Our life runs at a crazy pace and without a true partnership, we’d never be able to manage our life successfully. My boys are blessed to call him dad and blessed to have three grandpas, who love them unconditionally.  They are lucky to have so many positive male role models in their lives.

Time to pop a bottle and celebrate all of the dads in our lives.  To all the fathers out gthere, who day in and day out work tirelessly to support their family, happy father’s day!

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Beautiful Blossoms

Since I was a young girl, I spent hours in the garden with my mom, my grandmothers, and even my great grandmothers.  In Minnesota, there is no more welcoming site than the tulips breaking through the nearly frozen ground.  The tulips were a sure sign that spring was on its way and winter was starting to lose its grip.  Soon after the daffodils and late season tulips would follow.

My great grandmother’s garden in Minneapolis was absolutely exquisite and huge.  She a beautiful path that wound through the garden and led to a little enclave near a stump where a beautiful and delicate lady slipper could be found. As my great grandmother’s garden grew, she would divide the plants and thin them out to keep the gardens healthy.  The plants that were taken out of the garden were shared with my grandma, my mom and my aunts.  My mom still has peonies that originated from my great grandmother’s garden.

Peonies are my absolute favorite, but unfortunately I can’t grow them in South Florida as it does not get cold enough here.  Now instead of peonies, tulips and roses, I’ve planted gardenias and hibiscus plants.  In addition to the new flowers, we’ve added mangos, avocados, pineapples, limes, key limes and bananas to our garden.

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There’s so much beauty and peace that can be found in the blossom of a flower.  The bloom lives a delicate short existence, but in its short life it brings the world tremendous joy.  The blossom of a flower can teach us many things.  The blossom doesn’t wait for affirmation or bees for it to open.   The flower blooms and the bees come.   Lastly, the blossom is a poignant reminder of how beautiful, delicate and short are existence is on this planet.  Enjoy the beauty of life and don’t wait to blossom.

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Ice Cream, Taxes and Kids

This summer for the first time in eight years, my kids are spending the summer at home in Florida.  One of the things, I’ve tasked them with is creating a product and a business.   The purpose of the exercise is to keep their reading, math and critical thinking skills sharp, while also getting them to think creatively about their future.   For the older two kids, this also includes the personal finance modules on Khan Academy.

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As kids leave high school and college, few are well prepared for the real world.  They don’t teach personal finance in high school or college.  In fact, I remember tables and tables of credit card offers during my time at the University of Minnesota.  A bunch of high interest credit cards is exactly what college kids don’t need as they accrue student loan debt.

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Jake starts college this August and he needs to be ready to navigate his finances on his own.  Since it wasn’t addressed in school, we had to create our own curriculum to teach our kids about money.  One thing we did is give them a monthly budget to buy drinks and snacks for their lunch.  If they ate or drink their goodies before the month was over, they were out of luck and they couldn’t borrow money.  It only happened once and Jake quickly learned to live within his budget.

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Fortunately, my younger two are very aggressive about saving money.  As we’ve tightened the belt to afford our dream vacation, they have really sacrificed.  They’ve finally stopped asking for a new boat, which is amazing.  Now instead of a boat, they’d like a Cessna (small plane) they can keep in the garage.  Seems pretty reasonable, right!  Clearly, they need some more financial education.   I’m sure once we get back from Norway, they’ll be asking for a yacht.

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Living Life as a Paragon of Perfection (Not!)

In a world dominated by social media and social media influencers, the use of filters and the crafting of a careful social media presence exists far from the glare of the Hollywood lights.  We use Instagram to perpetuate an image of our lives that we want the world to accept regardless if it is accurate or not.  It has a created a society that looks towards almost unattainable and unsustainable happiness based on the false pretense of everyday life the social media has created.

Think about it.  When you select your Insta or Facebook profile picture, you’re going to pick the most flattering picture.  You may even select one with one of those ridiculous and fun Snapchat filters.  We certainly don’t select a picture where we look horrible that’s for damn sure.   The picture where we’ve clearly drank too much and are making the most ridiculous face that are friend tagged us in on Facebook?  We instantaneously remove the tag.

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The thing is we can’t pretend like this didn’t exist before the socials did.  It’s not like people picked their crappiest photos and worst moments to highlight on their Christmas cards.  Just like the photos we post to our profiles now, the photos selected and the moments shared always crafted a good picture.   Was it always accurate? Probably not.

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The problem with socials is that they exacerbate the perception that many of our friends are living lives that are the total paragon of perfection.   Meanwhile, their life may be a complete disaster or completely normal.   As I looked through pictures from graduation last month, I found myself laughing at the outtakes.  We had some great pictures, but there were some completely disastrous photos, which are pretty accurate of how life sometimes feels in a house of all boys.

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For today’s blog post, I’ve interspersed some of my favorite photos of the boys and the numerous outtakes.  You’ll notice one Christmas (2007) the Mayor decided he didn’t want to cooperate at all.  At the end of the day, social media can be a great tool to keep in touch with family and friends across the globe, but we can balance putting our best foot forward with the creation of a completing fake and narcissistic social media persona.