Random Thoughts: Organizing, and Donating to Extended Family non-profit


Hi there.   Quick note to let ya’ll know that I am still here.  It has been a long time since I’ve posted anything.

Maybe it’s because there’s just a lot going on.   Maybe because I’m finding other outlets to feel good about myself.  Maybe because I’m emotionally drained thinking about the past few weeks of tragedy – that in CT as well as one that touched my daughter too closely (remember my post about her 4-year old “classmate” in her daycare center that fell ill and died).   She talks about this still, asks questions, and yes, she breaks down and sobs about death and loss.  She has felt loss this year in other ways as well.

So, I just have not been writing as much.

But I’ve been having fun with the kids.   I’ve given and received more hugs and kisses to/from them than I ever thought possible.   I’ve been excavating my backyard and building my winter garden.  I’ve been getting ready for Christmas and am looking forward to making it special for the kids this year.   I’ve been cooking.   I’ve been organizing and shedding.   Going through closets and purging.  It feels good.  Feels good to get organized and make room.

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During this process I collected quite a bit of usable, good clothing that others could get use out of.  I wanted to find homes for old suits that have been hanging around in my closet for longer than I care to admit.  I started a search to find a non-profit that directly benefits working mothers – and I found exactly what I was looking for.

Check out Extended Family.   Essentially they are a non-profit that assists single, working parents who are in need.   Unlike many other non-profits, 100% of all donations go to the single working parents and families in need – the organization does not fund its overhead with your donation – it is operated by volunteers and lead by Mark Carmer who backs the organization with his own money.   Look at their site, they do a much better job at describing themselves than I can.

According to Mark Carmer, Founder and President of Extended Family,

“We assist single parents who are truly alone and have no assistance from the other parent. These single parents are employed and working hard for their families, but find it’s still not enough.

We have found that single parents who are employed, in an effort to improve the lives of their children, often fail to qualify for government or charitable assistance… because they are earning an income.  Extended Family believes these are the people who should be supported the most.  We believe in helping those who are working hard to help their family, but are alone in doing so… and need a little help from Extended Family.”

Quite impressive, huh??!?!?!??!?    I quickly packaged up my piles of suits and shipped them off to Mark at Extended Family.   I am confident that they will find good homes for them.

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So, now I feel much better that I’ve written something.  And something that hopefully you can act on – if you are in search of a great non-profit to make a donation to before year-end, please consider Extended Family.

I may write another post before the end of the year, but I don’t want to promise anything.   In which case, be merry with your loved ones and gear up for 2013!!

Best to all –

– Mama K

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New Addition!! “Contributions to Mama In Motion”


I wanted to let you know of a recent change to the www.mamainmotion.com website and this blog.    This change was the direct result of someone reaching out to me with an idea on content that she would like to contribute.    So I’ve made some changes to the site and want to test out this new forum.

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We are a lively, feisty bunch of women who are trying to do it all. If you are like me (and I know you are), you have lots to do, and likewise, lots to say.

This is an area on the Mama In Motion website and blog where other Mamas In Motion have the chance to speak their mind, and share their thoughts on issues that are important to them. It is my hope that these contributions will also help other working mothers who are interested in understanding more about these issues that may be important to them as well.

This is a new area to this site – one that I am excited about.

So, if you are a Mama In Motion with something to say, please contact me at mamainmotion@hotmail.com and propose your idea. I will then work with you so you can create a piece that is most relevant to this forum – and will gladly publish to this forum and make it happen.

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Photo source: artofeducation.wordpress.com

Let’s go ladies! Let us know what you are thinking about!

– Mama K

Gig Tip: “We”, not “I”


My career consists of 20+ years of project-related work, so this point of view might be irrelevant for those of you not in this kind of work. Anyway, through the years, it has been beaten into me and actually part of my DNA now at work to always refer to projects, results, findings, work, analyses, as “we” when presenting to outsiders — most notably clients, and to a lesser extent when presenting to colleagues in large group settings.

Not so good phrases:

  • In my opinion, the biggest opportunities for your company are X, Y, Z….
  • I researched high and low and couldn’t believe it when I struck gold with this source!
  • It is a very complex excel model that took me several weeks to set up
  • The report had many complex issues and was difficult for me to write
  • You are my client and it is my job to make you successful

Better phrases:

    • We believe the biggest opportunities for your company are X, Y, Z… OR, better yet…. We believe The biggest opportunities for your company are X, Y, Z.

    • The team researched high and low and we couldn’t believe it when we struck gold with this source!

    • It is a very complex model that took us several weeks to set up

    • The report had many complex issues and was difficult to write

Of course, there are times that it is most appropriate to recognize the accomplishments of others who worked for you on your team. You need to talk them up internally and also to your boss. It is only right to give them credit and motivate them. However, in front of CLIENTS, it is best to represent the work product as a team work product – if you are the one presenting the work, it is obvious that you were the one that conducted the work… especially if you are fielding questions about it. But in the end, it is more professional to represent the analysis, findings, and recommendations as coming from the TEAM, or your company.

This simple advice was provided to me many years ago. And something that I continuously share with feedback to others that are new to our company. And it goes a long way to present a unified front to your clients. Find other ways to self-market and promote yourself. Do it internally, but certainly not with clients in team settings.

Any thoughts on this one???

Thanks for listening –

– Mama K

Staying Sane: Couch monster


This past week involved a lot of shifting around my little living room.   This was to make room for the Christmas tree.  I bought the cheapest, fake tree I could find.  So, it is actually quite long and skinny.  Which is AOK by me, since my little living room can’t really hold a lot of tree.   Anyway, dealing with the small space and trying to free up room by the windows to make room for a gorgeous, decorated, tall skinny tree was in order.  And guess what we found while moving the couch sectionals around the space…

  • 1 remote control
  • 1 piece of art from the kids – a picture of a hand-drawn fire truck that was beautifully drawn and colored
  • 5 bouncy balls, 1 golf ball, 1 other random ball
  • an assortment of Lego pieces
  • 1 pair of rabbit ears
  • the equivalent of a bowl full of popcorn and unpopped popcorn seeds
  • a hair clip
  • countless bits of crayons
  • some plastic toy bugs
  • about 5 marker caps
  • 1 empty bottle of children’s play nail-polish
  • some kids books
  • a few puzzle pieces
  • massive amounts of fuzz
  • likewise, lots of hardened coal-like guinea pig poop

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So, if you are driving yourself crazy trying to find that little “do-dad” that either you are missing, or worse yet, your child is missing (and thus throwing a tantrum and falling to pieces), there could be a possibility that the couch monster that was at my place is now at yours.   It might be worth a look under the couch to see what kind of gold could be lurking…

Have a great week everyone –

– Mama K

Dec 5 – 7 Recap: Short school days


I’ve had a busy rest of the week with the kids.  Big Bro has had early dismissal all week because of parent-teacher conferences.  I reaped the rewards for this.

Wednesday:

  • Worked from home in the AM but I had to leave on the early side due to Big Bro’s pick up at 12:30 AM!   🙂
  • We went to lunch together.  I learned that he likes cranberry juice.
  • We then went food shopping together.  He helped me pick out the things on sale and I showed him the prices by the ounce for comparison.  Which is higher, lower, etc.
  • Then it was time for his conference!   He needs work with his writing and reading; but is great with comprehension; his math is good.  He’s on track.  He is “social”, and “chatty”.  He was caught passing a love note to a girl in class (teacher admits that she is a cute one and many boys also like her).  He was shy at first and took a month to open up – but in her opinion it was on the “normal” side and not out of the ordinary.  Whew!
  • Pick up for Red, Twin Crazy and Twin Husky was great.  I missed them so much.   Huge hugs.
  • We went home and the kids were having a great time wearing boots – Red’s came from Amazon and Big Bro was wearing mine.  Twin Crazy and Twin Husky already have some.  They were going nuts with each other.
  • We finished the evening playing hide-and-seek in my little house.   Too funny.

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Thursday:

  • Drop of for Big Bro was fine; I decided to “steal” Red for the day since we would have to pick her up at 12:30 anyway.  We stayed local to avoid too much back and forth.
  • I took the kids to a science museum.  They had a great time learning about ghekos’ feet, tumbling, playing with balls and ramps, looking at dinosaur bones, playing with computers and pegs, and climbing on structures outside.  They were great.
  • We picked up Big Bro and when we got back we started to put the Christmas decorations up.  They worked together and were so cute.  Twin Husky kept saying that he “loved” certain things about the decorations – so sweet.
  • Afterwards they went crazy with blankets and sheets – tearing everything off and creating a mountain.  I was disgusted.  I reminded them that this was a lot of work to put back together and they were responsible for it.  Red and Big Bro worked as a “team” (in their own words) to put the sheets back on the bed.  They did both beds so I was amazed.  They agreed that it was very hard work.  They also agreed that it was “bad judgment”.

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Friday:

  • Another good drop off; another stolen day with Red.  We went to a “farm” where you can give the animals lettuce.  We fed cows, pigs, chickens, ducks, lots of goats, and a ram.   We all wore our boots.   Then we went to a playground on the grounds.
  • On the way back, I stopped at a nursery and bought lots of seedlings for the winter garden.  I hope I’m able to plant them soon before they die.
  • Pick up for Big Bro was great – I love these early days.  We headed home since there was still lots of time until drop off to co-parent.
  • We finished decorating the tree since I bought hooks today.   We put up the balls and only a few crashed.   They each settled on “jobs”.  Red took out the balls from the package, Big Bro put the hooks on, and Twin Crazy put them on the tree (kind-of).  Twin Husky participated when he wanted to.  He was more interested in playing with cars.
  • They played with Legos, cars, and magnet dress up dolls.  Big Bro then went to a neighbor’s house to play soccer and ride bikes.
  • Then it was time to go!!

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I got back home and cleaned up a bit; organized the tree and moved some of the decorations around since it was very bottom-heavy.   I put together some more of the planter boxes for the garden.   My goal tomorrow is to set up the boxes and then carry down some dirt.   I’d like to get the boxes filled between this weekend and next so I can plant next weekend.  Very excited.

Have a great weekend –

– Mama K

December 4: Happy Birthday Coparent


Today was a good day at work.   I had a face-to-face meeting with a client so was dressed up to impress.  We had a good meeting.  I had a good, productive, rest of the day.

But it was emotional for a part of the day.  Today is co-parent’s birthday.  I remember when he turned 40, I gave him 40 gifts (seriously) over a span of 1 week.  This time last year however, he was preparing for divorce without my knowledge.  And today, I am living apart from  him in a different home and our four children are caught in the middle of so much.  Tonight was their night with him – so he had the opportunity to celebrate with his kids.

We have been fighting over custody, over schedules, over where these kids are going to school, community property, separate property, accounts, real estate, cars….. And I have been so angry feeling like a crusade that I started when Big Bro was born to live a simpler life in a community with great school districts has fallen on deaf ears and caused the downturn in our marriage.  But, what done is done.  The past is the past.  We have been through pain and I have cried too many tears over the past two years in particular.   We are still in the process of divorce and I just want this to be done with.  I’m done.  I’ve had it.  I want it over.  I want to move forward.  I want each of us to move forward and make sure that our kids are happy and have what they need, what they deserve.

So, happy birthday co-parent.  Let’s try to get this done with.   Please be reasonable and respectful of me and I will be the same to you.  Let’s move forward without too many more scars.  Our kids will be better off if we are able to do that with one another.

And now, a plug for a GREAT service that I used today:  TaskRabbit.com.    Think Craigslist but with a captive audience of pre-screened “rabbits” that will do your task for you.  I used them in the past to build a Home Depot shed for me.  I used them tonight to deliver 8 helium balloons to co-parent’s house (our old house) tonight for his birthday party with our four kids and a close friends/neighbor’s four kids as well.  I called there and the party seemed to be in full swing with the kids fighting over the colors of the balloons.   I should have ordered only one color.  Oh well.

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PLEASE TRY OUT TASKRABBIT AND USE PROMO CODE:  PAL294191 FOR A DISCOUNT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So, life goes on with ups and downs, with celebrations and scars, but also with help and support.   I guess the trick is to seize the happy moments knowing that there will be scars to come – but hoping nonetheless that you can get through them and come out on the other side stronger than where you started.

Til tomorrow –

– Mama K

Gig Tips: 9 ways to enhance your professional network


I look back on the different jobs that I’ve had, the opportunities that I have had, and also the future outlook for myself (professionally speaking) and I cannot under-estimate the value of the network of individuals whom I have had the pleasure (or  sometimes displeasure) of interacting.

Do you know that I reach out to my network for personal and/or professional reasons AT LEAST WEEKLY to help me navigate through a problem and/or obtain information.   Most of the time I’m leveraging my network on a DAILY basis, but at a minimum I would say I’m leveraging it weekly.

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Image source:  collegemedianetwork.com

How can you improve YOUR professional network?

  1. Realize and know the sources of the people in your network.  For me, my network consists of:
    • existing/previous colleagues
    • alumni from graduate school/college/highschool
    • existing/ previous clients
    • friends and/or neighbors in select fields (personal friends, moms/dads at daycare, moms/dads of your kids’ friends, etc.
    • select friends of friends, in select field
    • select individuals who have touched the work that I do through the years (e.g., vendors, partners, people I have interviewed, etc.)
  2. Keep contact information up-to-date; I am a fanatic about keeping my Outlook and personal email contact lists up-to-date with current email addresses and snail-mail addresses.  Whenever I receive an email from someone I have not heard from in a long time, I make sure the email info is current in Outlook, my personal email address book, etc.
  3. Use LinkedIn.   I am an avid user of LinkedIn.  I cannot believe the power of this tool and responsiveness of people who then become part of my own network once I start working with them
  4. Use alumni databases.  I use alumni databases extensively to find people in the right locations, companies, or skillsets that I need help with; also message boards that are set up within the alumni databases I find to be extremely useful
  5. Know how you most feel comfortable in reaching out; feel confident and believe in your story when reaching out; I’m definitely more email heavy than many people.  I’m a visual person and a record of something tends to work best with me (no kidding, hence this blog).   I do use phone, however less frequently.  I find that my first phone call outreach is a bit awkward, but once I get my story down and the reason why I’m reaching out, the dialogue gets much better and I am much more at ease with verbal outreach.   I love interacting with people and find that face-to-face for me works best – I will go out of my way for face-to-face meetings where at all possible – and my favorites are over food and/or drinks.  🙂
  6. Be genuine.  Reaching out to most people are usually when you need something.  Let’s face it.  But sometimes, I reach out to people just because I am thinking about them (e.g., ex-collegues whom are now my friends), or if I come across information or something that I think would be of interest to someone specifically.   I’ve had people reach out to me with canned emails around my birthday with the wrong information about me in their database – each time I get these I cringe; in my outreach to my network I try as best I can to personalize everything.   You build a reputation over years and decades… but you can destroy a reputation in a millisecond.   So in my communications I try to be sincere and genuine – and those that know me know that I write / email like I talk…  I try to make email communications personal and as human as possible.
  7. Be responsive.  If someone in my network is reaching out to me (email, VM) I do my best to respond within 24 hours, if possible.   This is similar to a recent post I did on Give and Take — if someone is reaching out to me for help, I want to give them the respect and respond as quickly as I can – I want to recognize them, see them, and let them know that I am dependable.  What comes around goes around.  I am much better at this in my professional life than my personal life.  Just ask my mom or the best of my friends.   😦
  8. Grow your network selectively.  I have done this by:
    • Asking for contacts through existing contacts, friends of friends
    • Joining appropriate groups in LinkedIn or other on-line forums
    • Opening myself up to the prospect of meeting new people at work events, conferences, kids’ school events/ parents of kids’ friends, social gatherings, industry networking events, the person sitting next to me on the plane….
    • Opening myself up to change – a new job, a new place to live, a new role at the company, a new hobby, a new parenting support group…
  9. Use it!   Make it a habit of leveraging this asset – get comfortable with it!!   The more active you get at maintaining and reaching out to people in your network, the more comfortable you will be at networking in general and continuously building upon it and leveraging the power of the people you know – but in a genuine way.

I’ll likely be talking / posting about some or all of the above in more detail at a later time, but I wanted to start my thinking at least at this level and we can go from there.

Any input ladies?  Any other ideas on how to build, cultivate, and nurture your professional network to help with your job/career?

Thanks for listening –

– Mama K

Goodbye November – Recap


I feel like I’m slacking in capturing the highlights from these four kids. There’s just too many of them that I fall behind – here’s a recap from last week

Thursday:

  • Big Bro helped Twin Husky get dressed when he started having some problems
  • Drop offs were fine for Big Bro and Red; on the way back home Twin Crazy, Twin Husky and I went food shopping. They love the “car cart”.
  • We drove around the neighborhood looking for a reservoir that should be close-by (I am still extremely fearful of earthquakes and I want to know where this reservoir is… it should be walkable from the house) and we saw some stunning decorations; one that caught our eye was this low, low tree with RED red leaves and HUGE ornaments. It was gorgeous. I’m noticing that Twin Crazy is using the word “gorgeous” a lot recently. She cracks me up.
  • We relaxed on the couch by the fire and read books; kids played with stickers
  • At night we did homework, and then the kids turned the living room into a “campsite”. Big Bro and Red were the mommy and daddy, and everyone had blankets and pillows out. They were teaching the little ones their numbers and the alphabet, and then they said it was time for night-night. They were going to pretend that dinner (that I was cooking) would actually be breakfast. They were having a ton of fun together. Twin Husky was a bit left out (as usual) but he did make his way into the group a bit. He was very particular about how he was positioning his “animals” for sleep on his blanket. Too cute.

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Friday:

  • RAIN RAIN RAIN; it was crazy wet outside. Big Bro was shuttling the kids from the house to the van with an umbrella.
  • After dropping off Red, the Twins wanted to stop by their classroom quickly to say Hi to their friends and show their teachers their bears and fluffy pillows
  • The three of us went to Home Depot for some gardening tools – a cheap rototiller and I found some pots on sale
  • Bathtime! Lunchtime! Naptime! While the kids napped, I tilled the entire garden area and broke the tool that I just bought.   It was actually a great activity.  It was only lightly raining and the sun was out – so it was really nice being outside and getting physical with my new project.
  • After picking up the kids we went to Home Depot to replace above rototiller. We looked at the HUGE holiday light decorations and the kids got a bit sidetracked.
  • We then went to buy rainboots for Red and Big Bro. We went to TWO STORES with NO LUCK. I wound up sitting with them on the floor using my phone with the Amazon app and bought them boots for our “farm”
  • On the way to the car we were surprised by Santa Clause! There was no one there! It was like he was just waiting for us and only us. At first the kids were apprehensive about sitting with him but then I announced that who-ever got a picture with Santa while SMILING would get an ice-cream/or dessert immediately afterwards. Suddenly Santa was rushed by the kids.
  • We went to Starbucks and split a bunch of rice-krispie treats and hot chocolate.

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I had a great end of the week with the kids. Fridays are not a bad night since we know we will see each other the next day. When I got home by myself, I went to work on some cedar gardening beds in my living room – this required drilling that I had never really done before and I worked until 11:30 PM.

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The rest of the weekend:

The next AM I put mole-wiring all over the garden area and then got showered and shopped at Trader Joes’ in enough time to have some friends over with their kids. We had a great time and I loved their visit. The kids had soooooooooooooo much fun that Twin Husky was even walking around saying how much fun he was having – and Red drew a picture of their family that she wants to send to them.

Last night during book time Red announced that someone in her old classroom was dead — ugggh I knew this was going to come but it took me by surprise; I didn’t know that her teachers had told her anything yet. I wound up sitting with her past bed-time for close to 2 hours, being with her while she thrashed around (and hid her face from me), sat quietly, then we talked, she asked a TON of questions, and then we drew pictures together for this child’s family. She happily went to sleep (thankfully) with smiles from ear to ear. I’m not sure if it was the talk that we had, the way her questions were answered, the drawings that she did for the family, or the time that I spent with her, but I’m just glad this kid went to sleep with a smile on her face and a gleam back in her eye. She is the one that worries me.  In fact, looking back at the pictures of her shows a girl who is a bit “off”.  I didn’t pick up on anything unusual, which bothers me a bit.

Today, Sunday was a rain downpour again in the AM. Our backyard was a river. It was exciting investigating the river with the kids. We had neighborhood kids over all day today and Red seemed to be back on track. Big Bro was having the time of his life with some boys in the neighborhood. Today they are finding worms (and getting soaked)… tomorrow….???!???!?! They were too cute.

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Sunday nights are harder for me since I do not see the kids until Wednesday afternoon. Twin Crazy screamed the entire way to co-parent’s. The rest of the kids were quiet. I returned home and just had to put my head down to take a breather. The weekend was more emotional than I would have liked; I’m thinking of the kids now and hoping they are OK as they go down to bed.  I’m worried about my girls.

Have a great week everyone –

– Mama K

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