A Letter to My Husband on Father’s Day


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


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.

Leave Me Alone! (republished from 1/9/15)

Traveling has taught me to be more observant, more organized, and more flexible.  Most of the time I am responsible for my schedule, and I have realized that the majority of the time I am alone.

The luxury is that I don’t have a routine, I am not worrying about my daughter’s schedule, and that I can choose what I would like to eat.  As much as I love spending time at home and with my family, my alone time allows me to reflect and be quiet.  This may sound frightening or not fun, but I truly appreciate this time.

In September, I traveled to Asia and spent a lot of time alone.  I didn’t feel the need to occupy every moment in the day, and interact with as many people as I could.  I became very self-aware, especially when eating alone.  It also gave me time to realign with my personal and professional wish list.  My favorite realization was that I was able to distinguish between being alone versus being lonely.

I was chatting with a good friend who is single.  We were talking about how empowered you feel when you are alone.  There are times that he would love a companion to attend events together versus attending alone, but the freedom has made him a more independent, and in my opinion, a happier person.

Sure, it’s always wonderful to share experiences with others, but I do believe that everyone should allow time to be alone where you are the decision maker for all of your activities.  I also believe it’s important to enjoy being alone.

At this time of the year, I believe a lot of us go through an evaluation of the year and set up resolutions for the upcoming year.  I encourage you to allocate some time for yourself – to quiet your mind and be autonomous.

You Make Time For What’s Important

9D1F9873-7945-478D-A19A-9EC0123662F6The pressure of writing something impactful on my blog is so unwarranted. So to take the pressure off, I’ve decided to write quick and shorter posts about things that have helped me. I’m calling these posts “You Make Time For What’s Important”.

My inspiration has come from The RED podcast with David Hooper interjecting smaller sized solo podcasts versus the normal podcasts with his co-host & new wife, Laurel.  With that, my first YMTFWI post is a snapshot of the six podcasts that I am listening to on a regular basis.

Sporkful: I love Dan Pashman’s tagline “It’s not for foodies, It’s for eaters.” This is my kind of podcast. http://www.sporkful.com

TED Radio Hour: We all want to be impactful in the world, but the people highlighted are blowing my mind, and teach me to think even deeper. http://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour

Chewing the Fat: Two Chinese American (with a twist of Puerto Rican) women from Chicago talking about food trends, and interviewing experts on cool topics nails it for me. http://www.wbez.org/content/chewing-fat-podcast-louisa-chu-and-monica-eng

Meditation Oasis: Balancing your chakras may sound weird, but after listening to a podcast, I do feel calmer and in balance. Who doesn’t want that? http://www.meditationoasis.com

Serial: I have no idea if it’s her voice or the story that is intoxicating. It’s a podcast about a murder that the accused may or may not be guilty, and a journalist trying to find the answer. It’s also the #1 podcast on iTunes. http://serialpodcast.org

The RED Podcast: After being in business for 18 years as well as having several other businesses established over the past few years, I am inspired by the dialogue between the hosts. They understand the entrepreneurial lifestyle enough that their podcasts are about 25 minutes since we all need to get back to what we’re doing which is working less, making more money. and having freedom. http://www.redpodcast.com

What To Teach Your Kids Before They Leave Home

10364042_10203262477736864_754696161956816490_n Kiana, 10, heading to camp & Rachel, 18, headed to Dartmouth in September
My 10 year old daughter will be headed off to camp this summer, and I was wondering what skills we have taught her to prepare her for being without her parents.  Also, this is the summer before the high school graduates head off to college, and I am curious as to how prepared they are when they leave home.  I know technology has put information immediately at our hands with our cell phones, but I do think there are basic skills that we should be actively trying to teach our kids. 
I’m thinking that it would be great if every young person could do the following:
Cook a traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner (not out of a can)
Wash and iron clothes without ruining them
Replace a button, fix a hem, and polish their own shoes
Drive a car including one with manual transmission, and maintain it properly
Change a flat tire
Know basic first aid and maintain a complete first-aid kit
Know what to do if you get sick, especially if you’re alone
Know when to defend yourself
Know CPR
Create a budget
Balance a checkbook even if you bank online
Set up a filing system so all of they paperwork in your life is in one place
Carry on a conversation for fifteen minutes with a person you don’t know
Speak before a small group of friends for a few minutes
Tell a joke
Learn basic ballroom dancing skills 
Care for a dog, cat or other animal including when they are sick
Baby-sit for children ranging in age from 6 months to 6 years old.
Aid the elderly or handicapped people
Get around the city on a bus or train even if you typically walk or drive
Know what direction is north, south, east, and west (without a compass) whenever you’re outside
Read a map 
Throw and catch balls of all sizes without breaking your fingers
Swim half a mile, tread water for half an hour and float for an hour
Ride a bike with confidence
Hang a picture straight without making extra holes in the wall
Paint neatly including cleaning up the mess
Know which tools perform what functions and how to use them around the house
Sharpen a knife without cutting yourself
Hike with friends all day without getting lost, bitten or covered with a rash
Bait a hook, catch a fish, reel it in, remove the hook, then clean and cook the fish
Play a team sport
Maintain a fitness regiment
Learn a game (like chess) you can play with friends for life
Draw an illustration at least well enough to get your point across.
Have confidence to sing aloud
Know how to play a musical instrument
Challenge: Do the young people in your life have command of the above skills?  Are you up for teaching them as life lessons?

Considerations Prior to Joining a Non-profit Board of Directors

I’ve had the honor of serving on several non-profit boards, and I am very happy that I am involved.  I feel that it adds to the balance of my life as its own entity, but filters into both my professional and personal life. My motivation was two fold. Primarily, I wanted to be an example of stewardship to my daughter. The other was to be impactful in my community.

Considering the experience I have had as a Board member, I believe there are four steps to consider before engaging in a relationship with an organization.
  1. Understand the mission and goals, and truly be passionate about it.  I have come to the realization that the boards that I have dedicated a lot of my time are causes that are close to my heart. I can identify these quickly: empowering females, fairness to everyone, and encouraging education especially in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.
  2. Understand the “state” of the organization.   
    1. FinanciallyIf there are funding issues, budget constraints, and/ or a capital campaign when onboarding, this can be a bigger challenge versus a financially robust organization that has just completed a campaign.
    2. Leadership: Considering that I will be dedicating my time and resources typically on a volunteer basis, I want to surround myself with people that give positive energy and can inspire me.  It is imperative that I feel a connection with the President/ CEO or Exectutive Director and the other board members.
    3. Strategy: The organization should have a strategic plan that they are executing.  It should be clear to explain and have metrics that can be met.  I have found that it’s a red flag when longstanding organizations justify their actions with “We’ve always done it this way.”
  3. Understand the organizations expectations and the criteria for their prospects.  Typically, the nominating committee has reviewed the demographics of the current board members and have identified gaps and/or successes that they want to enhance. There is a reason they want you on their board.
    1. Give or get: One of the responsibilities I’ve always encountered is a fiduciary responsibility (anywhere from $2000-$10,000 per year). If I cannot directly donate the dollars, I’m expected to find others to financially support the organization (friends, family, business associates).
    2. Development expectations: There may be an expectation to bring ideas and innovation to the organization to help them grow.  This can also include involving your network, your industry, or your professional affiliations.
    3. Time commitment:  There are Board meetings and committee meetings, and there is usually an expectation of attending a majority of them.  In addition, there are also events to attend and possibly committee assignments.
  4. Understand your capabilities. With all of this being said, it is important to consider your motivation and your contribution.
    1. Financials: I believe it is important to realistically evaluate the financial commitment. It should be an amount that will not stress you out in order to keep the board seat.
    2. Time: Adding an extracurricular activity does include a time commitment, and it should align without interfering with current work or personal commitments.
    3. Network: As a Board member, you will be representing the organization to your network.  You also have the opportunity to inspire others to get more involved. Will that network support you and the organization?
    4. “Secret sauce”: As a prospect, to solidify your seat at the table, you should identify what makes you an excellent fit.  There should be something compelling that draws them to you, and sets you apart.

Invitation: Being active in your community is a very rewarding experience.  It is an opportunity to learn more about those in the community who are helping others. It is also good for your soul. Are you giving enough to your community and how can your talents and resources better your community?   

Celebrate Good Times C’mon! – My 25th High School Reunion


Conant High School 25th reunion Allison Goodman Spaitis & Karen Eng

Conant High School 25th reunion
Allison Goodman Spaitis & Karen Eng


Is it truly a milestone when you’re invited to your 25th high school reunion?  I’m not convinced it’s a milestone, but more of a celebration of life amongst my peers – many of whom I’ve grown up with since the second grade.  Obviously, I felt different compared to my 10 year reunion and I can clearly state why.  I was at a different stage in my life – newly engaged and a few years out of graduate school.  At the 25th year high school reunion, we are in our early 40s, have been working for a couple decades, and (lightly or heavily) seasoned in marriage, family, and children.  Here are a few things that I took away from the evening that I believe are true across the board whether you’re attending a reunion or not:

  1. Be proud of yourself, but tone down the bragging.  It seemed like most of my classmates were comfortable sharing what was going on in their lives.  Whether a professional or stay at home mom or a combination, it didn’t matter.  Their eyes lit up when they were talking about their children and/or their satisfaction with their career choice.  It made for such a great evening with no “one upping” each other.
  2. Enjoy talking about the past, but be optimistic that the best is still to come.  There were a couple of stories about high school, but they were good memories that made the group smile.  Memories are great, but if you are stuck in high school, it limits the possibilities of what the world can offer.
  3. Be genuinely happy for your friends, acquaintances, peers, classmates, family versus compare yourself to them or be jealous.  It was a genuine pleasure to listen to what my high school friends were currently doing.    It was inspiring to hear what made them happy, and seriously, I felt everyone was SO nice.
  4. Eliminate the variables so you have the confidence to talk to whomever you interact with.  Since you haven’t seen some people in awhile, of course, you want to look good.  I would think that new haircuts, new makeup, and new fashion will make you self conscious.  I recommend wearing that outfit that matches the venue and that you feel great in.
  5. Keep in touch with everyone to keep updated on their lives.  Facebook has been an excellent tool to keep in touch.  A quick flip through your news feed (or if you’re lucky like I am, you have an amazing coordinator who sets up a reunion page), and you have some great prep conversation when you get to the venue.  Quick tip: just reveal baseline information so you don’t cross the line of Facebook stalking.

In addition, I connected with a few more friends after the reunion which made the evening even more worth while.  Although I can’t recall how much I enjoyed high school, I truly appreciated an evening with no cliques, no obsession about popularity, and no gossiping.

Invitation: Can we incorporate these mantras in our everyday life?


Birthday gift to myself

bday2013It’s interesting how people celebrate their birthdays each year.  My nine year old was super excited, and relishes being a year older.  Our office manager simply says that we can’t celebrate her birthday.  And on Facebook, I feel so popular with over 70 of my friends wishing me a happy birthday.

Since I was 21 years old, I have a birthday ritual.  I wake up before everyone, and read the letter I wrote to myself 10 years ago.  It’s quite exciting seeing the letter and unsealing it.   The format of my letter never changes.  It is broken into three parts.  The first is a synopsis of the past year that includes highlights of my professional career, my personal life, and my relationships with my family and friends.  The second part is setting some goals for the next year.    And the final section is what I look forward to the most.  It is my younger self predicting what I am like ten years later and asking questions to my older self.

The most difficult part of the 10-year letter is waiting for the first time you can open your letter.

My priorities have changed through the years, and quite frankly, the issues that were pressing at the time, I typically don’t remember ten years later.  A lot of the predictions that I have made have come true.  I believe this is because your behaviors may change over the years, but beliefs rarely do.

Invitation:  Consider writing a birthday letter to yourself as a way to document your memories and inspire your future self.