Light Bulb Moment No. 1

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Photo courtesy of Bantu Wear 

I have been told that the perkiness served up by most Starbucks baristas is not coincidental. Starbucks doesn’t have the market on joyful, enthusiastic, optimistic people. They just make it a part of who they are and if you are going to work for them then you have to buy into and be who they are. I have known this tidbit for years, when a new client of mine came straight to our first appointment in her uniform.

Yet, as I waited for my tea and smiled at the barista thinking “It must be so nice to do work you look forward to coming to and makes you smile everyday,” is beyond me. Because as soon as those words left my mental mouth I realized that I too could do that. However for the past couple of years I totally bought into this myth that I didn’t need that. That I didn’t need to be positively emotionally connected to my job, it didn’t need to make me happy just money to pay blasted bills. That to expect happiness or joy from my job most days than not was unreasonable. Kinda like expecting any of my celebrity crushes to just pop up at my place and take me to dinner in Paris (that is unreasonable…they don’r know where I live…or me. )The barista called out my drink and smiled as he passed it to me.

Here’s what I’m thinking. I’m thinking it’s absolutely okay to desire, expect, and seek a job or jobs that add or show potential to add joy and happiness to our lives. There are no guarantees and we probably should shy away from our joy and happiness being primarily reliant on factors outside of ourselves.  Still, lack of guarantees should not have us thinking we are seeking to much by seeking joy and happiness in an activity that uses so much of our time, energy, ability.  I say, ignore the super pragmatic basic well meaning folks who say as long as you get a paycheck emotional welfare is overrated. I’d say it’s underrated. A job that makes you happy (assuming g nothing illegal makes you happy, or anything that harms you or others) is not asking for too much. It may be what you need just as much if not more than the paycheck. 

Here’s hoping this added a little light to your day! xxoo

Love the Work, Loathe the Job

Photo courtesy of Go To Glamour Girl.com

Photo courtesy of Go To Glamour Girl.com

She had hope in her voice when she asked how I liked my job. I was tempted to lie. She knew how challenging things were at the last place. I hated to disappoint her. “It’s ok, ” I responded. I couldn’t lie. She was disappointed. “Just ok?,”  she continued. “Yeah, just okay. I’m grateful for it,”  I said and smiled. She looked confused. “It’s a job Ash. And for that I am grateful but it’s there’s work that I love to do and sometimes that happens at my job, most of the time it doesn’t. That’s okay. I didn’t expect my job to be the place I did my most fulfilling work. But then again I see a job and work as two different things.”  She looked mildly satisfied with my response.

Work and jobs are not one in the same. Work, you will do until you cease to be or cease to be capable. If you are fortunate you may have a job that allows you to do work that you love. If you’re not so fortunate then be grateful for the job, see it for what it is, and make room for the work you want to do that would yield similar benefits to a job (i.e. steady income, ability to cover health insurance, etc.)

The things that matter to us are the things we work with, towards, for, and out. Work is not a desk, a shift of 8, 14, 24, or 36 hours. It is not a destination, doesn’t have a 20 or 60 minute commute. There is no 10 year or 25 year anniversary and no retirement. That’s a job.I think, at least in the U.S. we have made jobs work and this when we leave or finish a job, we think that our work is complete too. Wrong.

Photo courtesy of Exquisite Girl.com

Photo courtesy of Exquisite Girl.com

When I tell people I don’t love my job but I love my work they look puzzled. I smile and wait patiently hoping they get it. Usually they don’t. So I tell them that I love being creative, helping people, having hard but necessary conversations that offer insight, hope, and empowerment. I love creating spaces for people to explore, create, and recreate themselves. I get great joy from providing tools to help people work at relationships. I love allowing people to be courageous in telling their story or changing their story. I even love calling out ignorant and privileged administrators who sprinkle their ill informed ideas with microaggressions and exclusive commentary. However, I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT LOVE  my job.

I do not love the constraints of a schedule, the questioning of my authority or expertise often because of the color of my skin, gender, or age. I do not love meetings or antiquated systems that were never designed to help or support the people I love to partner and work with. I do not love spaces that I can’t feng shui on a whim, or being able to freely choose to work in my home, Starbucks, or the library if that’s what I deem necessary to be productive and effective. I do love not being able to plan travel when I desire because of an event to help staff.  I do enjoy being effective in 4 hours but having to stick around for another four because that’s part of my job. I don’t enjoy being surrounded by a majority of folks who can spell change but have not desire or concept of what that looks like. I loathe being placated and politics that are more times than not self serving and maintain a crabs in the bucket culture. See, ewww , I do not love my job. And I don’t just mean the current one. I haven’t loved a job in a long time. I’ve loved the work, the clients, the students, some of my team, and some of my supervisors. My jobs have been tolerable because I can insert work I love.

When I am not at my job I still work. The creativity, conversations, supporting, space creating, writing, all continue. This blog is work I adore, not a job. Speaking at the Black Girl Project Conference in October, work, not a job. All the conferences and workshops I’ve been privileged to o in the past three years have been wonderful hard yet victorious work.  My relationships, the familial, friend, and other are work. Yes, you have been fooled again if you think relationships aren’t work. They are. May you choose to relate with those who view you as worthy of that work and vice versa.

Photo courtesy of Diego Guevara

Photo courtesy of Diego Guevara

This week may you reconsider your perspective of that which you deem work and that which you see as a job. May you find liberty in knowing your job can be just that, a job, and you can still work at, on, with, for that which you are called and created to do. It’s not an either of, but a both and. May you find new energy and strength for your work (work ain’t always easy) and your job, especially if your job supports you (i.e. helps you keep a roof over your head, food in the fridge, bills paid on time, clothe for the kids, etc.) but doesn’t necessarily make room for you to do work that brings you joy. May you find courage and wisdom to work at the relationships that are hard work and express gratitude for the relationships that aren’t hard work ( I heart the ones where we just get each other, but that’s not to be taken for granted). May you fund time to create a plan that allows you to do more work and less job. And finally, may you you have a great week at your job and a great week working!

From the Black Girl Project Summit With Love xxoo

Last Saturday was the end of a three weekends in a row away from my cozy corner of the world tour. There was a birthday shindig for my east coast nephew one weekend, chaperoning some rather amazing international students in Manhattan, and then as fate would have it, my last weekend away I would spend it doing what I love- talking to women and girls about living incredibly victoriously and emphatically. I would spend two hours with forty eight beautiful brown feminine faces keeping it real on the ways in which we need to imagine wellness and redefine strength. It was glorious!  I had the absolute pleasure of spending time with some incredibly beautiful, brave, and talented young women and girls at The Black Girl Project Summit in Brooklyn, NY. I was thrilled to have conversations about functional depression and redefining the strong Black woman, as well as sit in on sessions about intimacy and gender roles. Just sharing a few pictures from the day where I got to do what I love. Have a sweet weekend and I will greet you on the other side of October Monday morning! xxoo

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Back After Baby- One Woman’s Story

We are just about half way through September, the unofficial end to summer has come and gone, leaves are starting to change color (at least in my nook of the world), and fall is about to make a comeback. Folks are settling into familiar routines once again and the new normal, you know the one, the September through May routine, is back in action. Yet while you read this and nod in agreement, there are men and women who have a new September through May routine, one that is shaped by the birth of a child.

Recently I caught up with Ronika Money- Adams, wife of one, mom of two, lover of Jesus, dweller of Dover, Delaware, higher education professional, believer in educating, supporting, and empowering women, and sharer of her experiences in going back to work after the birth of her two children, Kimora and Kaiden. May her words resonate and encourage you. 

Photo courtesy of Alex Elle

Photo courtesy of Alex Elle

TSLL: As a mother of two children, it would seem that you have had to “go back to work” twice. What if anything was different about going back to work after Kimora’s birth? After Kaiden’s?

RMA: After Kimora’s birth, I did not return to work until she was 7½ months old.  I had resigned from my position as a Residence Director and was looking for a new opportunity. That opportunity ended up being a full time position with a 3-4 day schedule at a non profit organization. Due to the schedule, I didn’t feel as if I had fully returned back to work until I was hired full time at a university in Pennsylvania, when she was approaching 11 months old. I would say had a somewhat smooth adjustment with her.

Now, returning to work after Kaiden’s birth was painful to be honest.  Unlike Kimora, Kaiden had an emergency delivery and spent nearly 3 weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit.  I returned to work just after he turned 3 months old.  I found myself regretting my decision to return so soon.  I would’ve preferred to have returned when he was at least 5 or 6 months old, but with our medical bills rolling in so quickly I didn’t want us to be down one salary. I did not feel the same peace I felt when I returned to work after having Kaiden. I wanted the have the same foundation of time I had with Kimora.  I also breastfed Kaiden which added another layer of difference to my return to work.

TSLL: What would you do differently if anything about maternal/paternal leave?

RMA: I would have researched the options for a reduced work schedule to ease my transition back to work with Kaiden or have made budgetary adjustments to allow for a longer leave period.

TSLL: When you think about the first time you went back to work after your first child, what was the most exciting?  Most challenging?

RMA: The most exciting thing was being able to communicate with adults about adult issues.  When I was home with Kimora, I gained a new found respect for stay at home moms.  They do not have an easy job. The most challenging thing was not being able to spend time with Kimora the way I had when I was home. We played together, took naps together, and I found her smile to be soothing. Thankfully, she was being watched by my mom who was 5 minutes away from the job I had when she was 7 ½ months and 30 minutes away from the position I took in Pennsylvania.

TSLL: What do wish you had known about the back to work transition?

RMA: I wish that I had known that I could have worked an abbreviated schedule to assist with my transition back to work. I also wished that I had paid more attention to the attitude and culture of my workplace towards returning mothers.  There are no nursing spaces and accommodations are different for staff and faculty who are returning parents.

TSLL: How does being a working mom influence the way you parent, if at all?
RMA: Being a working mom, influences the level of importance I place on spending time with my children. Work has my time 40 hours or more a week.  I want to make sure my children have time with me as well.  I don’t want them to say at my funeral “ We loved our mom, she was always at work.”  I find this to be the case more now that I am a mother of two and my daughter will be 8 years old. She needs me to be there. I’m working on taking more time off.

TSLL: How does parenting influence the way you work, if at all?
RMA: I believe being a parent has made me for empathetic and understanding of out of work life issues affecting my staff.   If someone is sick, I want them to stay home and get well. I know what it feels like to run yourself into to the ground at work and come home to do same thing.  I’ve become a better supervisor in my opinion as a result of my having a second child and trying to take better care of myself for them.

TSLL: How did your friends and family have supported you in the back to work transition?

RMA: I’m very blessed.  My mother  has been the caretaker for both of my children when I returned to work after their births.  She is honored to take care of her grandchildren and finds it rewarding to spend time with them.  I don’t know that my transitions would have been as smooth as they were emotionally if she wasn’t so supportive.  My aunt was also a great source of support in the area of child care with Kimora whenever my mother wasn’t available.

TSLL: How could employers  have supported you in the back to work transition?

RMA: Employers can be more understanding of the lack of sleep and emotional strain being experienced by returning parents. I can’t say that these two issues are limited to mothers because there are fathers who take paternity leave and experience just as much of a lack of sleep and emotional strain.

TSLL: Looking back, at your experience of going back, are there any words of wisdom you would offer parents returning to work after having, adopting, or being given custody of a child?

RMA: My advice to any parents returning to work would be to establish a transition plan that gives you and your family the most peace.  I know finances play a huge role in when we choose to return but it is vital that you have a sense of peace for you and your family.  Research your Human Resource policies related to leave and utilize a flexible schedule option.

So what was your transition like back to work? #DaretoShare

Back In The Office- 5 Ways to Make Over Your Monday

I am editing this post after one of the best weekends I’ve had in a while and not being a part of an organization that grants Labor Day off. Mhmm. Yup, you read that correct. One amazing weekend in DC with my girls, eating, drinking, and dancing until the wee hours of Sunday morning and I just reached over to set my alarm for 5:45am Monday morning. I am thinking that this alone means I temporarily have an authority on how to make over Mondays o that going back to work on a Monday can be  more joyful, almost as joyful as if I started the post by welcoming you to the weekend.

Photo courtesy of Norvz Austria

Photo courtesy of Norvz Austria

Extra Time- I know. You probably feel like it’s rough enough that Monday got here quicker than you anticipated, but trust me, sleeping until the last possible minute-the minute that will allow you to leap out of bed, into the two minute shower, and then into clothes you are pretty sure are clean and you didn’t just wear to work, does not make for a good Monday.  Honestly t doesn’t usually make for a good any day. Give yourself an extra 20 minute in the morning to do something you enjoy. Yes, wake up and do something you enjoy before you mentally run through your to do list, fantasize about who you hope is out sick, or try to sleep for those extra 20 minutes.  Recently I went back to getting up early enough to spend an hour sipping tea, reading my bible, journaling, pining, etc. after that hour I then transition into work mode.  It makes a huge difference starting my day and my work week with things that bring me joy.

Photo courtesy of Purse Blog.com

Photo courtesy of Purse Blog.com

Make it colorful- Color impacts your mojo. You can research color theory a little later. Colors influence our mood, and for some more than for others.  Put the black pants back in the closet and go for the green or purple ones. Resist the plain blouse and go for the one with the polka dots. Wear that funky purple and green bangle bracelet and try the gold hoops instead of the barely there silver studs.  When you look good you will feel good and color has the power to make you look and feel good. Resist the neutral uniform on Mondays and just be a little more creative. If you are reading this and doubt your ability to wear color or patterns in a fun creative way, get thee to Pinterest.

Photo courtesy of Garden Guides.com

Photo courtesy of Garden Guides.com

Power pack your lunch bag- There is nothing like looking forward to a good meal. Don’t cheat yourself. If Sunday dinner was the epitome of nourishment for your body and soul, then pack up the leftovers for round two on Monday afternoon. If it’s a busy Monday, don’t bank on heading to McDonalds or Starbucks, pack in the fruits, veggies, and nuts. I can’t even tell you how in love I am with the fresh fruit I snagged at the Farmers Market this weekend. And yes I am slipping one of those Nectarines into my lunch bag for Monday. Now if you have a morning meeting uptown and an afternoon meeting downtown, and eating out is what will facilitate a smooth transition, just eat somewhere good. Sometimes I find such predicaments are perfect for grabbing Sushi. Let that marinate. Sushi in the middle of your Monday. Divine! (Well divine if you love sushi.

Photo courtesy of U Gallery

Photo courtesy of U Gallery

Move and groove- Honestly, Mondays are my first day of the week back at the gym, but if you aren’t on the workout train just yet, at least put on your favorite playlist or online station that gets you moving and grooving. Anthony Hamilton is my station most nights, and in the mornings I need more of my gospel stations or some throw back TLC. Wake yourself up to some music that has a beat that can do nothing less but get you on your feet. My shoes are often the last thing I put on because I am too busy slipping and sliding across my hardwood floors before heading into the office.

Photo courtesy of Joanna Goddard

Photo courtesy of Joanna Goddard

Make up your mind- There is nothing like making up your mind that you will have a good Monday (or any day really). It may sound all pop psychology-ish, but the truth of the matter is, as you think, so are you. If you want to have a Monday that is full of peace, and joy, and productivity, then you have to declare that it will be so. Furthermore, when things happen that are out  of your control, you can choose how to react, and you can react in a way that grounds you in whatever you declared for the day. Just try it, you got a lot of Mondays ahead.

Have a super sweet Monday, and honestly I think these tips can work for any day. The truth is we often negate the power of starting our days in a way that can powerfully and positively impact the rest of our day.  Take back your mornings, take back your Mondays, take back your power and the endless possibilities to LIVE well. xxoo