The balancing act 

I think balance is the name of the game I struggle with the most in life. I tend to be a lover of structure — not in the sense of having a spotless home or color-coded calendar — but in terms of how I seek to understand things. If X is right, then Y is wrong. I’m open minded on most issues, but setting parameters in my own life helps me feel like I know what I need to do to succeed. 

Take money for example. I’m a saver, through and through. I’m not over the top (although my husband might disagree), but I worry about financial stability a great deal. Despite the fact that we are in great shape and blessed with a comfortable lifestyle. Despite the fact that we have lots of savings as a cushion. Despite the fact that friends and family would undoubtedly help us out if we needed it in an emergency. I know ALL these things, but sometimes it’s hard to treat myself to a nice haircut or new clothes, because there are more responsible things to do with the money. 

I’m expertly skilled at defying logic to find ways to worry. This comes into play with my health, too. I work out almost everyday and make healthy food choices the majority of the time. Yet when I see someone ordering a salad when I got a burger, I will often question my decision. 

It’s enough to drive you mad, the “shoulds” and the analyzing. Especially because I’ve seen what happens when people fall too far to one side of a behavior. They miss out on trips with friends because they can’t rationalize spending the money; they keep their houses uncomfortably hot in summer to save on the utility bill, they never see anyone because they are always working; they never order what they really want on the menu because of what the nutritional content  is, or they spend endless time in the treadmill that could be dedicated to family. 

Everyone has their own challenges and quirky “things,” and we must be respectful of and embrace these in others, but we also must reach out when we see someone we love losing balance. Because life really is too short to focus on the wrong things. It’s a tried and true cliche, but if you consider what someone on their deathbed* (*what the hell is a deathbed, anyway? Sounds awful) might offer up as advice, it won’t be to spend more time at work or running laps, it would likely be to fill your days with the things and people you love.

I’ve lost friends suddenly –  lives cut short so fairly and unexpectedly – and when I find myself struggling with balance I think of them, and what they’d urge me to do. Which is exactly why I just went and got a pedicure instead of catching up on work, going for a run or doing laundry. 

  

 

“I know what you just discovered, are you ok?”

She doesn’t tell me what she knows I’m going to discover on my own, but she pops up at the right moment to say, “I know what you just discovered, are you ok?” –Nancy Dubuc

Nancy’s quote from her recent NYT interview describes her relationship with her predecessor as CEO at A&E. It’s a art — being there without hovering — and I ‘d never heard it articulated this way. I relate to this on so many ways; as a mother, daughter, wife, friend, professional, etc. I’m constantly trying to insert and remove myself.

No matter how you slice it, lots of things matter in relationships. And sometimes the tone, timing, or nature of an interaction matters more than the frequency. More often than not, the best people to surround yourself with are the ones who decline to dictate a precise course to follow, or weigh in with strong opinions, but instead find ways make you feel safe through subtle interactions.

Simon Sinek on Leadership

[…] You know, in the military, they give medals to people who are willing to sacrifice themselves so that others may gain. In business, we give bonuses to people who are willing to sacrifice others so that we may gain. We have it backwards. Right? So I asked myself, where do people like this come from? And my initial conclusion was that they’re just better people. That’s why they’re attracted to the military. These better people are attracted to this concept of service. But that’s completely wrong. What I learned was that it’s the environment, and if you get the environment right, every single one of us has the capacity to do these remarkable things, and more importantly, others have that capacity too.

[…] When a leader makes the choice to put the safety and lives of the people inside the organization first, to sacrifice their comforts and sacrifice the tangible results, so that the people remain and feel safe and feel like they belong, remarkable things happen.

[…] The reason we like flying Southwest Airlines is not because they necessarily hire better people. It’s because they don’t fear their leaders.

[…] You see, if the conditions are wrong, we are forced to expend our own time and energy to protect ourselves from each other, and that inherently weakens the organization. When we feel safe inside the organization, we will naturally combine our talents and our strengths and work tirelessly to face the dangers outside and seize the opportunities.

[…] The closest analogy I can give to what a great leader is, is like being a parent. If you think about what being a great parent is, what do you want? What makes a great parent? We want to give our child opportunities, education, discipline them when necessary, all so that they can grow up and achieve more than we could for ourselves. Great leaders want exactly the same thing. They want to provide their people opportunity, education, discipline when necessary, build their self-confidence, give them the opportunity to try and fail, all so that they could achieve more than we could ever imagine for ourselves.

[…] If you had hard times in your family, would you ever consider laying off one of your children? We would never do it. Then why do we consider laying off people inside our organization?

[…] This is the reason so many people have such a visceral hatred, anger, at some of these banking CEOs with their disproportionate salaries and bonus structures. It’s not the numbers. It’s that they have violated the very definition of leadership. They have violated this deep-seated social contract. We know that they allowed their people to be sacrificed so they could protect their own interests, or worse, they sacrificed their people to protect their own interests. This is what so offends us, not the numbers. Would anybody be offended if we gave a $150 million bonus to Gandhi? How about a $250 million bonus to Mother Teresa? Do we have an issue with that? None at all. None at all. Great leaders would never sacrifice the people to save the numbers. They would sooner sacrifice the numbers to save the people.

[…] Leadership is a choice. It is not a rank. I know many people at the seniormost levels of organizations who are absolutely not leaders. They are authorities, and we do what they say because they have authority over us, but we would not follow them. And I know many people who are at the bottoms of organizations who have no authority and they are absolutely leaders, and this is because they have chosen to look afterthe person to the left of them, and they have chosen to look after the person to the right of them. This is what a leader is.

 

Eight months, with love.

You are eight months old, sweet girl, and you are our greatest joy. 

You love sitting, rolling and screeching, and have started declaring, “Dadadadada” every so often, along with “guhguh” and lots of gargling and shrieks. You would really like it if your legs cooperated in crawling, but for now, you tend to just scoot yourself backwards, culminating in a frustrated logroll.

You are a huge fan of your outdoor swing and the activity jumper you inherited from Vanessa. You enjoy time in your high chair and always are cooperative on car trips.

You laugh with such awkward joy when daddy plays silly games with you, sometimes as surprised as we are by the sound of your giggles, and you are curious about everything like a tiny exploring scientist.

You’re an astute observer, incredibly intrigued by your surroundings and whatever you can touch and put in your mouth. You love being outdoors and touching different textures like grass or wooden posts. 

You love all food. All of it. You haven’t turned your nose up at anything, although your favorites seem to be pears and avocado. You are starting to try to feed yourself which is messy and adorable. You suck down those pouches like nobody’s business. 

The dogs are quite fond of licking your face aggressively, to which you close your eyes and look utterly bewildered, like you were randomly and inexplicably thrown in a dunk tank. You’ve edged closer to tail pulling which we fear will be a tricky rite of paw-sage.

You are sleeping about 11 hours a night in your crib. We never thought you’d warm up to it,  but as soon as you figured out how to get on your side or your belly, you were content. Your pacis are required for sleep most of the time.

You still fall asleep in my arms and I am so thankful for that. You’re extra snuggly when you don’t feel well which has a distinct bittersweetness.

Not a day goes by where I don’t feel a profound and magical difference in the world and in myself, because of your existence. 

We’re trying to do it all right, Lila Bear, and probably succeeding about half the time, but making up the difference with love. 

  

Parental Juxtaposition 

When the baby was brand new, I often complained, “I can never put her down,” and “She’ll never sleep unless she’s held.” My arms ached from baby holding and I’m convinced I undid all my rehab following wrist surgery a few years ago. But looking back, what a lovely ache it was to have, the one acquired from holding your baby. 

I think my biggest regret from new motherhood is always trying to get the baby to sleep…in places other than in my arms. I was so caught up in the premature nonsense of establishing routines and creating good habits that I overlooked the simplicity of the situation and made myself crazy in the process. Thank you, baby experts of the world, for marketing your madness to my sleep-deprived delirium.

Now, the baby sleeps 11-12 hours at night, in her crib. I’m away from her all day, and if I have to work late, I might go a day without holding her at all. So funny how one extreme leads directly to another.

Lately I’ve been having some momma pangs of needing more time with her. So when she fell asleep in my arms on Friday, for the first time in weeks, I sat there with her just soaking it in.

The juxtaposition of the current situation with what I faced eight months ago is ironic, no doubt, and yet another lesson in finding joy in the present.

Newborn:  

Almost eight months:  

A matter of months 

When you’re pregnant or have an infant, everyone you encounter will undoubtably ask you some version of the same two questions:

“How far along are you?”

Or,

“How old is she now?”

These are great questions; ones that any mom or mom-to-be is thrilled to answer. They bring to light a funny question though: when do our weeks and months become less significant? 

Most of us over the age of three track our age in years, and as we grow older, there are fewer occasions to measure time any other way. 

When pregnant, it’s hard not to obsess over weekly changes (“What fruit is it now??”), and with a baby, a week often reveals new skills or a jump in physical growth. While obviously this pace of development slows with age, why does the value of our time seemingly decrease as well?

My dad turned 68 years young today, and to celebrate, he shared a photo with the family that perfectly depicts his youthful zeal. He posed in the same position I put my daughter in each month, sitting on the floor, wearing a sign that shows his age in months (816, to be exact). This was, quite simply, hilarious. And a perfect reminder that while age may be just a number, it’s an important one to celebrate at any juncture. 

Today I’m blessed to be 382 months old, and thankful for every milestone, large or small.

Happy birthday, Dad. I love all 816 months of you. Thanks for never failing to embrace an opportunity to teach us not to take ourselves too seriously.

 

  

The milkshake heard ’round the world (…and the joy of being proven wrong)

It doesn’t always sound like a good time, but sometimes I really like being proven wrong, simply because it’s funny (and good for the ego). I’ve decided to share one such recent experience in hopes of publicly humbling myself and maybe helping others out there.

Let’s go back a few months. In November, Lila started full-time daycare and I went back to work. And, as we’d been warned, she was sick almost immediately. And then again. And again. Ear infections, RSV, stomach bugs, all kinds of boogery nose things and who knows what else. Everything she caught she graciously shared with the household, and I was feeling sick about half of the time. Add that to the unique level of new-working-mom exhaustion and a wakeful infant and I was pretty beat up. I compared the feeling to permanent jet lag. I could pull it together when I needed to, but felt like I was floating and permanently wanted to nap. I worked out, ate well, slept when I could and still felt like tired, sick and unfocused. I realized that I hadn’t really felt like myself since pre-pregnancy, and wondered if this haze would ever go away.

I shared this story with a friend who suggested I try the type of protein/superfood shake she was using. I quite literally scoffed in her face, and wrote the idea off as something lame I would never try.

Fortunately for me, this friend is kind and persistent, and asked again if I wanted to try the shakes. Here are some of the reasons why I declined:

– They’re expensive.
– It’s a pyramid scheme.
– I eat healthy and organic foods and don’t need it.
– Protein shakes taste gross.

I had every excuse in the book NOT to try them, but when my immune system took another beating in January, I was desperate. I ordered the shakes, confident I would be returning them for a refund in a few weeks.

And then, the glorious realization that I was dead wrong. For whatever reason, I now refer to them as my magic shakes. I’ve had one a day for about two months and am not kidding when I say I’ve never felt better. I am FINALLY back to myself, and have more energy and focus than ever. I realize that when I talk about them, I sound like a paid infomercial, but here’s the thing. I only get like this, all soapbox-y, when I am really passionate about something.

Those excuses I listed above? Every one of them was disproven. The price point is where it is because of the ingredients. Ingredients that I took into two stores in an attempt to replicate, and was laughed out the door because of the prices of each individual one. It’s not a scheme, it’s a simple structure that makes me wish I invented it, because I’d be a millionaire. I do try to eat healthy, and organic, but these have rare ingredients and superfoods I’d never get on a regular basis. They are delicious, and come with dozens of recipes for making all sorts of combinations and flavors.

Aside from better energy and overall health (I haven’t gotten sick once, minus food poisoning last week — take that, daycare germs!), my hair is longer and shinier, my skin has improved and I’m sleeping better. I feel happier and more centered. While I’ve always worked out a lot, no denying that, my body is shedding fat at a crazy rate right now. In less than three weeks on these I had better abs than pre-pregnancy. It kind of makes me laugh because it seems as improbable as it sounds, but for now I just consider myself lucky to be on this track.

I recently became as a coach with the company because I love this stuff and can’t stop talking about it to everyone. Basically that means I’m authorized to sell these shakes and a lot of other fitness products. I have never sold anything in my life–not even girl scout cookies–so this should be entertaining if nothing else. I’m a tad bashful to post before and after pics on here (and it would freak my older brother out) but I am happy to email them to you to show what I’m talking about. Feel free to check out my coach site (teambeachbody.com/jesstaylor55) where you can order the shakes if you’re still reading and my crazy narrative has you convinced (just click on ‘shop’ on the top right and then ‘shakeology’).  I would be happy to give you lots more information and answer any questions or talk at you ad nauseam about this experience for no extra charge.

I debated sharing this on here for all kinds of reasons, but truth telling always wins. So there you have it, the joy of being proven completely wrong and loving it.

shakes2