MY International Women’s Day 2019

Kiana & I in Berkeley, CA during the Illinois College of Optometry Board of Trustee’s meeting. March 2019

I received this text this morning from my 15 year old daughter:  “Happy International women’s day mom! Thanks for inspiring me and (em)powering me to be my best self everyday! I love and appreciate you 💓”

If you could see the smile on my face and feel the warm energy that spread throughout my body, I guarantee you that you would be smiling too.  

Let me tell you why.  When I was single, I was motivated by ambition to make something of myself and not be dependent on anyone.  Yes, I did work hard and earned a respectable income.  When I got married, my motivation was to make a wonderful life with my husband that also included building my career.  And when my daughter was born, we still continued to work diligently, but there was a higher calling.  I was to serve as an example of being a strong woman, being impactful, being passionate, & being compassionate.  

My reply back to my daughter: “Thank you, my love.  Lots of what I do has YOU as my motivation.  So we have to be strong together. Happy International Women’s Day!”

So as we celebrate women’s achievements and create a more gender balanced world, I applaud the women who inspire me and empower me to be my best self everyday.  #BalanceForBetter

My 35 Year Love Affair

Daily Instant Ramen (Tom Yum flavor) with egg, chicken sausage & veggies

It has got to be one of the longest relationships I’ve had with only one major breakup.  It was an introduction by my mom and dad when I was young.  In fact, it was something that my mom made sure I could depend on – instant ramen.  There were always a bunch of 10 cent packages in the pantry, and if I was at home alone, it was my go to. My mom even showed me how to enhance the noodles with lunch meat, a hardboiled egg, and some lettuce.  There was never any stigma against it due to the high amounts of MSG or that it is highly processed. I was told that it was MSG that made it taste so good.

There were also plenty of packages of ramen in college to be cooked in the electric hot pot at any hour of the day.  In San Diego, with the guidance of my California resident suite mates,  I learned about the variety of brands of instant ramen at the numerous Asian markets.  My goal was to try as many different flavors and brands as possible to find my favorites versus the typical pork Maruchan brand.  Quite frankly, it was an inexpensive research project. 

When I moved to Boston for optometry school, I was on a student loan budget so ramen was a staple in my diet.  This is the time that I built my meal creativity.  I became good at stir fried noodles, crispy noodle dishes,  as well as different soups.  It was also a pivotal time when I concluded that when I became a doctor and started making money, I would cease eating ramen as a sign of success.  A few of my friends admitted that they also had this commitment to shed their associated poor man’s food once they were finished with grad school.  One included chicken wings and another was pasta with Ragu spaghetti sauce.

So I probably stopped buying and eating instant ramen noodle for about 10 years as a symbolic gesture.  It was a big break up.  And I didn’t miss it one bit. There would be the occasional mention – like when I bought a hot pot as a gift along with a case of ramen noodles for a college freshman, but nothing in my home.   It wasn’t until I decided to stock my office drawer with snacks and foods.  I bought nuts, chips, teas, and cookies.  This was a good variety of foods, but nothing that I could call lunch.  I finally broke down and bought a few packets of ramen noodles.  Once it became part of my office arsenal, it was something i actually looked forward to making and eating.  I once again added leftover meats, veggies, and my favorite, eggs.

To compound my eternal love of ramen, I started packing noodles for international trips.  They are easy to make on a flight as well as in a hotel room.  This is especially true  in the middle of the night when my stomach is growling, and breakfast at the hotel cafe is a couple hours away until opening.  There has been a huge surge in ramen joints everywhere so my craving for ramen is satisfied by REAL ramen.  Near my office, there are 4 places that serve amazing ramen with excellent broths and cha siu. I’ve also experienced the slurping in Tokyo and across the US.

Recently, I was in India in which I ate Indian food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a solid week.  Although it was delicious, I had a craving for something else, so a package of ramen made it to breakfast with the addition of some chicken sausage, egg, and some cabbage from the buffet.  It actually made me happy (above photo is my ramen in India).

I certainly do not think I am alone with my love for ramen.  David Chang’s “Mind of a Chef” addresses noodles and included a scientific segment on MSG that had me watching that episode twice. It’s always good to give props to something/someone who makes my life easier AND better.  As silly as it sounds, I’m so glad you are in my life, ramen.

Listen To Understand, Not to Respond

I’ve always been a fan of podcasts and magazine articles that offer tidbits of insight of doing things better. Most have been great, but it’s not much mind blowing material. However, if I piece together bits and nuggets of advice given, there’s a common theme. It is to be present and mindful.

I recently subscribed to Jim Kwik’s “Kwik Brain” podcast.  His lesson on building your memory skills is great and is easy to incorporate into your daily life.  My big takeaway is: if you are trying to remember someone’s name that you have just met, you have to be engaged and present when you speak to them.

I’ve also been listening to Brendon Bouchard on “High Performance Habits”, and his points is to clearly defining where you are right now, and to be crystal clear about where you want to be.

Louise Hay & Wayne Dwyer speak about gratitude, and how they wake up in the morning and they are thankful for their body, their mind, their lives, even their bed and pillows.  You have to be uber mindful to engage in this activity.

So it’s no surprise that this includes being present to listen.  Many times we are engaged in a conversation where people are talking above each other or even interrupting each other.  It’s almost like we need to have “the” answer or banter immediately.  As this was brought to my attention, I decided to stop talking so much, stop daydreaming during the conversation, and really focus and listen to what someone is saying.  I will tell you that the retention rate of my conversations as well as the ability to accurately repeat what someone has told me has been significantly higher/better.

AND I will tell you that the folks I am talking with seem to emulate this behavior once they catch on, and it yields a much more robust conversation.  Sometimes, I even stop speaking when someone picks up their phone to check it.  What could be more important than someone sitting right in front of you that you scheduled time to talk with and be with?

In this time of immediate responses, likes, instant notifications, etc., etc., wouldn’t it be awesome to listen to understand?  And even better, wouldn’t it be truly special if someone was really listening to you & understood?

A Few Things I Learned From My Dad

As we just finished celebrating Father’s Day, I was thinking of some of the life lessons that my father has given to me.  I do feel that I am a product of my upbringing, my friendships, and my experiences, and my dad did a lot to mold my life.  Here are a few things that I know I learned from him.

Buy for quality.  We didn’t have a lot of extra money growing up, and my mom shopped very frugally.  My father, however, would research and purchase large ticket items with great justification.  He felt strongly about spending more upfront instead of having flimsy cheap items just to have them.  He also said that he wants things to last for a long time so he doesn’t have to replace them as often and it would probably cost less.  He stated that when you have nice things, you tend to take better care of the items.  I believe this is true considering I am still driving a 12 year old vehicle that is in great shape, am carrying the same purse, and am wearing the same earrings for the past 15 years.

Your appearance does make a difference.  When I was an awkward teen, my father was adamant about making sure that I had the opportunity to look good.  He took me to the dermatologist to get rid of a mole on my face.  He fully supported all orthodontics.  I was in contact lenses at an early age.  And finally, he told my mom to stop home perming my hair.  He said that he wanted to eliminate any physical obstacles that would make me self conscious or uncomfortable about my appearance.  When you feel good about yourself (inside and outside), you tend to exude the confidence needed to carry you through a client meeting, a job interview, or any situation that you have to show your skills and experience.  Once your outside appearance is taken care of, you can focus on maximizing those skills and talents.

Don’t exclude yourself.  When I spoke to my father about taking over his business, he taught me a few things that might help me in business.  He said that it might be more difficult for me to establish relationships in a predominantly male industry.  So he gave me lessons in a few things so i wouldn’t be excluded in social situations.  The first skill/hobby he wanted me to learn is how to play golf.  He bought me my first set of golf clubs and a 10 pack of lessons.  This skill has given me the opportunity to meet and work with several clients and generate millions of dollars of revenue for our company.  He also showed me how to smoke a cigar (which i don’t do as much anymore), and he taught me how to drink hard liquor like ports and whiskeys.  To this day, I am not afraid of being left out nor being excluded from a group of “those in the know”.

There are many other life lessons my father bestowed upon me whether through verbally telling me or sharing through example.  I am appreciative of the time and focus that my father has given and continues to give me.  And I still think there’s more to learn so I’m going to keep on listening and watching.  Thank you, Dad.

Keeping Your Word

I was taught at an early age that if you commit to doing something with others, this remains your commitment. Even if a better offer came along after, we were not allowed to cancel our first offer. I took this “rule” as law, and maintained this throughout my life. My husband’s upbringing was similar in this regard, and we see that it is infused into my daughter’s mindset.

As I was growing up, I realized that this “rule” was not always taught to my friends. I would invite them to play, get an affirmation, and sometimes they would cancel if another friend invited them over after we had made plans. My disappointment was evident, and my mom would simply state “Life is not fair”.

The lesson that I learned pretty quickly was that since I didn’t like how it felt to be the recipient of a broken commitment, I would try my best to not break my commitments.

Fast forward to today. I am proud to say that I still remain true to my commitments. It’s been refreshing that I have earned the trust of my business relationships (suppliers, clients, and employees), my family, and my friends. It has also taught me to manage my time better as to not overcommit. I feel people would rather have a timely decline than to wait it out or not RSVP.

I bring it up as this is a critical time for my 14 year old. She has much more freedom and decision making empowerment than I did at her age. But the “rule” still stands with keeping your commitment. I watch her struggle with determining her fun time schedule especially during the weekends. She has done a great job of keeping her commitments, and balancing her invitations by offering alternative plans. I have concluded that at this young age, she understands the basis of the rule, continues to follow it, and this is one aspect that she is queued up for success in this crazy world.

A Life By Design

At an event held in Chicago attended by 300 people, the panel was asked to introduce their fellow panelists. It was such a fun experience & different from the typical reading of someone’s bio. Tommy, a very dynamic entrepreneur that I had only met a week prior, was asked to introduce me. My favorite statement was when he declared that I live my life by design. I found it so interesting that he would mention this. At the networking event after the panel, the only question that numerous attendees asked me was “How do you live your life by design?”.

Delving into this further, the questions that I pondered are:
  1. Am I deliberate in how my day unfolds?
  2. Am I reacting to outside influences and living a life by default?
  3. Am I happy with my day, my life, my future?

My answer is simple. At this point in my life, I continuously set my priorities. When reviewing my activities and calendar, I ensure that it in aligned with these priorities. I do not accept all of the invitations I am offered. Life has been a whirlwind, but my time is filled with creating memories with people I value, building my businesses, and learning so I can better myself.

My priorities have changed throughout the years, but I make certain that they are clear to me so I can proactively live a happy and fulfilling life. I’m having lunch with Tommy next week, and despite the fact I thanked him via text for his compliment, I am going to thank him in person. Not only did he make my day, he observed a key ingredient to what motivates me. To me, that’s a big deal.

I am hopeful that this resonates to the people around me. I feel that it’s an amazing way to live, and it’s great to surround yourself around those who also live their life by design.

Creating Family Traditions


As we watch Kiana grow older, we like to talk about the experiences that we have as a family. Over the Veteran’s Day weekend four years ago, our weekend plans to Texas were rescheduled, but our family had allotted the time away. So I planned a surprise trip to London. I cashed in all my miles & my points for the next great adventure.
Our trip to London was one of the best experiences. Although Scott & I had been to London 13 years before, it was like a first experience to watch my daughter see and learn about London for the first time. In addition, despite the desire to go away to a warm place, London in November was such a fruitful experience. We, as a family, have a new appreciation for Veteran’s Day as it is a BIG deal in the UK. We wear our poppy pins proudly.

Our second year was an even better experience with our trip to Paris. Again, although Scott & I had been there before, we enjoyed watching Kiana excited to see the Eiffel Tower, for her to try a macaron at every store that sold them, and to view how small the Mona Lisa is in real life. Scott & I enjoyed the vacation as well because we were able to reminesce about how we had saved our money for our first trip. Although we had a wonderful first time, our second time had us falling in love with the city again.

Year three was a pivotal since no one had been to Spain before. It was an experience the three of us would be tackling together. We loved eating jamon iberico until we couldn’t anymore (Day 4). We also empowered Kiana to choose and arrange the itinerary. This was the best decision, and stopped the “I am bored” comments. She planned for us to take segways through Barcelona’s Olympic Park, scooters down the boulevard alongside the beach, and electric bikes up and down the narrow streets.

Now we are in year four, and our tradition continues. This year we headed to Italy which included Rome & Florence. This is the second country that no one in our family had visited before. As we continue our adventures, all three of us actively researched what would be fun to do as a family. We were amazed at Rome and Florence’s history, their loyalty to the Catholic heritage, and the preservation of art not only for its beauty, but for the history & pride it brings to the country. This does not even include the amazing food we discovered and devoured.

With all of this being said, my wish is that Kiana has memories of great childhood experiences that teaches her about different cultures that is not so centric on our American life. In times of instant gratification of accessible data from her iPhone, she has learned patience by assisting in planning and executing itineraries, map reading, and hands on minor foreign language dialogue. We hope that our good fortune allows us many more trips abroad as a family to continue the tradition.

Follow Your Intuition

 

I grew up taking on a scientific approach to problem solving.  The power of deductive reasoning seemed to work the majority of the time.  I always thought it was odd that people lived on the edge or winged it, and then things would go their way.  I got a whiff of the “gut feeling” occasionally, but never considered it to be part of the formula of decision making.  It wasn’t until recently that following my intuition became part of my daily routine.

When I first started hiring staff at CSMI, I would check the boxes of the technical qualifications of a candidate.  I would also check the boxes of basic manners.  This would work for the majority of hires, but there were a few people that we wanted to hire that gave an off vibe, and I could not identify exactly what it was.  There was the person who had a different odor (not the typical bad body odor) during the interview that had the worst odor problem in the office once he was hired.  There was the person who seemed absolutely perfect who used all the right terminology, but he ended up having all the excuses and zero work product.

Personally, we’ve had people that we have relied upon, but were the biggest flakes.  I will say that as we get older, the easier it is to read people and situations.  So is it truly a gut feeling or the sub conscience utilizing previous experiences to help make good decisions?

I think if it’s a life or death situation, your body will definitely take over.  However, this is a rare situation so I’m swaying towards it being a balance of your body physically telling you something, and your sub conscience weighing in as well.

And this brings me to my point-  I believe you have to be receptive to utilizing your intuition for this to work.  This includes living in the moment which ultimately leads to being passionate about your life.

Call to action: Are you being mindful and listening to what your intuition is telling you?

The World is Your Oyster. What’s holding you back?

Oyster

Last week, I joined a friend of mine to visit his cousin who became a professional athlete at age 18.  Twenty five years later, the cousin has aspirations of owning his own business and bringing the “cool” factor back to the sport.  He says that the sport has gone corporate, and he has some great ideas of how he can generate a lot of revenue while bringing an old school vibe back.  This included customized equipment, cool apparel, and school & training programs.  Everything sounded solid, and I later found out that he has been discussing this same plan for the past five years.

When I had asked why he hadn’t started his own business, he replied in one word “FEAR”.  He’s now a father of 3 and a husband.  He works for a corporation, and generates a salary.  My friend believes in his cousin, and has offered to fund the start up, but yet he hasn’t pulled the trigger.

When I’ve spoken to others who want to start their own business, I hear similar verbiage.  They don’t know if they will fail, and they are comfortable with their steady income and benefits.

My feedback is simple: What is the worst thing that is going to happen if you start this business, and it doesn’t work out?  Typically, the new business venture is something that they are talented in or they are experts at in their current job.  I believe the worst thing that can happen is that they would have to go back to their job or get another job.  Sure, there may be loss of time and money, but if you don’t even give it a shot, how will you know?

I do believe writing down a business plan is important.  It should be deliberate, but doesn’t need to be a huge endeavor to create.  This will provide a guideline as you work your way through the process, and regular reviews can keep you on track.  This includes how much you’d like to invest into the business, what kind of clients/markets you will be involved, and why you are doing this.  Check out this guideline:  http://theeverygirl.com/what-to-include-in-your-business-plan

Call to action:  What’s holding you back from living the best life you envision?  First, let’s write it down, do a little due diligence and pull the pieces together.  Go slow or go fast, but do something to live a life that you are passionate about.

A Letter to My Husband on Father’s Day

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Dear Scott,
Twelve years have passed since we brought Kiana into this world.  Twelve years wouldn’t be considered beginner’s luck anymore, but I still feel like we are novices and we are still learning how to be parents.  I wanted to thank you for being such a wonderful father.

I am so appreciative of our lessons learned through this journey.  Here’s only a few……

  1. It’s okay to sound like our parents.  We swore we wouldn’t be like our parents when we were kids, but we are reciting lines to ours like “I am the mom, and you have to do it because I say so.”  We both know that we want the best for her as did our parents for us.
  2. It takes two of us big people to take care of the little person.  As long as we both communicate with each other, we can collectively bring up a happy and confident child.  She has always observed our behaviors, and we can see some of our “skills” in her personality.  We have set the expectations of the best grades, to honor commitments to our friends and family, and follow through with our responsibilities.  The three of us are on the same winning side so we have to stick with our plan together.
  3. You have to be firm, but flexible.  We want only the best for our daughter, but we also want to ensure she is not an entitled child with little to no responsibilities.  If she does well in school, you remind me that she has fulfilled her responsibilities so she should be able to go out on a school night as a treat.  We have learned that if we are too flexible, she will take us to the cleaners.
  4. It’s about life experiences, and encouraging her to dream big.  While I would never agree to buy anything at the M&M store, you agreed to buy her whatever she wanted in London so it would be a memory for her.  I also never would buy that photo that they take at the tourist places, yet you bought the premium package (keychains and all) at the London Eye, Atlantis in the Bahamas, and the luau in Maui.  All of these items (except for the M&Ms) are still displayed in her room.  You also said to me when I complained about the cost of all the Stanford shirts, hats, sweatshirts, and accessories that if she believes she is going to attend college there, why should we shut that down?  You are absolutely right.
I am so proud to be your wife, and the mother of your daughter.  I believe that we are bringing up an amazing kid who is learning how to be an independent, sharp, and ambitious contributor to our society.  I look forward to watching our daughter evolve into a strong person.  It is with your love and dedication that our family remains solid.
Happy Father’s Day!

Spring Cleaning: Organizing with Intention #1

closet

I think I was born to be organized, and I am constantly developing processes to maintain an efficient system for my entire life .  This includes both physically, and more recently electronically.   About six months ago, I went through a clothing purge and managed to eliminate about 50% of my wardrobe and 26 out of 30 purses.  I also eliminated 80% of the books I owned.  Not only was it personally liberating to have more space, I was able to contribute everything to worthwhile causes.

How have I been more efficient? I found myself wearing the same few items even though there were a lot of clothes in my closet and drawers.  With keeping the clothes that I really like, I am able to get dressed quicker, and I have been able to wear some items that were dormant in the closet.

I’ve also started using the app Stylebook.  It’s $3.99, but I think it’s worth it.  I have photographed the majority of my wardrobe, and have recorded what I wore on the calendar.  I have also entered in the brand, size, and colors my clothes.  This has helped me when I shop to buy additional colors of items I like or to not purchase another pair of black slacks.

These are the questions I asked with each item in my wardrobe:
  1. Have I worn the item within the last 3 months (minus formal wear & outerwear)?
  2. Does it fit well?
  3. Have I worn it so much that I am sick of it?

I would encourage you to go through this process, and hopefully, you can get that feeling of accomplishment and sense of newness with your wardrobe like I have.

Next steps:
I’m slowly working on organizing electronically including my photos and files.  That will be in a future post.