Tuesday, April 29, 2014


How can we really "be there" for each other in times of desolation if we do not, either out of denseness or distraction, recognize and respect our common humanity? 

I'm not thinking about our closest relationships - most people come by their close relationships naturally, and by their very nature, these relationships include a lot of give and take.  Close relationships always expose our vulnerability, the naked truth about who we are and what we represent, and the understanding that the other person will still be there to celebrate you.

But it's those other relationships - the ones we rely on but don't care too deeply about?  We may really depend on the bus driver to be cheery every morning, but do we think it important to take the time to really connect - to share our common humanity?  How can we possibly show compassion on desperate days to a co-worker if we never connected enough to know about their normal life?

With that in mind, I led a new exercise at our staff meeting today.  In the last few minutes, I asked everyone to pair up and discover something about the other that they enjoy doing when they are not at work.  It was a hit!  After a few minutes, we regrouped and reported out...colleagues introduced each other and shared a personal tidbit - a favorite hobby, possession, skill.  It was well received, because after all this time of working together, many of us still don't really know much about each other.

I think our highest life's order is to show compassion, to hold each other up, to care. It is that sweet understanding that most of us enjoy, that, while suffering and personal failure may be inevitable, counting on those around you to be glum with you, or buoy your spirits, to share in your human experience in any number of ways, makes it just a little easier to carry on.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


In addition to the old familiar gender pay gap, it seems we women workers are also hurdling a confidence gap.  Most of us suffer from self-doubt and replay an inner narrative - stories we tell ourselves about our workplace unworthiness or other insecurities - and the more we say it the more we believe it.  We underestimate our abilities and men, through no fraud of their own, overestimate their abilities.  It's not that men are unfamiliar with feelings of self-doubt, but when they feel this way, they typically use it as motivation to suit up and doubly prepare, as if going to work is somehow like going into combat, and they are preparing, determined to win.

Women, in fact, when trying to get ahead or change the trajectory of their careers, tend to only apply for positions if 100% qualified; men decide to compete at less lower levels - if they meet about 60% of the job qualifications, they compete, knowing that OTJ training works - that they can learn the rest of the skills as they go, on the job!  Men are better at risk-taking, which includes risking failure.  Women would be wise to think on this.

We get high marks, of course, for being compassionate beings.  Not so much, apparently, with self-compassion.  This book encourages the tendency of kindness and compassion that we show others - to ourselves.  So instead of the inner dialogue of "I am a failure" replace that with "Yes, sometimes I fail, we all fail sometimes, and that's okay."

All of this and so much more is described in this fascinating new book - and the Atlantic's May cover story - The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman:

the confidence code
Quick takeaways:  Confidence matters.  Stop apologizing.  If you can't see it, you can't be it. 

For more info and an insightful video:  http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/04/the-confidence-gap/359815/

How confident are you?  Take the 5-7 minute quiz found here:

Sunday, April 20, 2014


We all have our Good Fridays...but Easter is a better way to be.  It's the hope that keeps us going.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


It's Holy Week and that means something to me.  I've been thinking about how little I actually need and how much I actually have.  How Easter is better if you have participated in Lent.

Whether it's a blessing or just good luck, I know I have enough.

I have a past and a future, and the present moment is a gift.  There were a few clouds today in that wonderfully blue sky.  I can rest and relax because I have enough.

Enough:  occuring in such quantity, quality, or scope as to fully meet demands, needs, or expectations..."  Merriam-Webster

"I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye."

- Bob Perks

Thursday, April 10, 2014

WFH and other workplace practices

Vacation is over and so I have been thinking a lot about the workplace.  Why we do what we do...

When I was Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's age, we did not talk about work-life balance much.  There was a certain amount of stigma about having personal needs and a home life.  The technology did not support working from home (WFH).  As a young working mom, I did ask to work part-time and after being shot down for that radical idea, and then, after asking if I could WFH occasionally, I was told the liability risk was too much for the employer - if I tripped at home, they would be held responsible.  I soon moved on to another job that allowed me to work part-time so I could spend more time at home.  It was a double whammy because I felt "less than" at work while still feeling the pull, and the longing, to be full-time at my new vocation:  mother.

I'm all for improvements in productivity, for communication and collaboration, but sometimes working from home, or working at odd hours, is the only way to get things done, the only way to keep the interruptions at bay.  And our technology easily supports this now.  And thankfully WFH, in many environments, is more commonly accepted and supported.

I'm still wincing about what Mayer decided - that working side-by-side is the only way to excellence.  I disagree.  I'm convinced that higher employee engagement is a result of the flexibility we offer our workers - that working remotely, even in modest amounts, can increase employee satisfaction, improve productivity, encourage engagement, inspire loyalty.

Organizations with motivated and energized employees make an extra effort and tend to be more creative.  Did somebody forget to tell Mayer that stigma-free flexibility might just help her company?  That YAHOO means just that:  You Always Have Other Options.

Or else...we could just move to France (still dreaming about Europe anyway).  Apparently the unions and employers have agreed to a legally-binding deal about that obnoxious and necessary work tool we call "work-related email" - employees are now banned from checking in before 9 am or after 6 pm, in order to protect their 35-hour work week.  Along with their cheap, fresh, ubiquitous baguettes, this work-life balance is looking like a pretty sweet option!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Europe 2014

So long, cobblestone streets, gothic cathedrals, medieval castles, and all those lost moments.  Mix in those times when Shawn and I squeeze hands without exchanging any words, just glances that show we both can't believe we're really here, seeing this, smelling that, hearing foreign words and strong accents - the very reason I love the travel:  to see the differences, appreciate the various cultures, and ultimately?  It's easy to see our sameness, a common humanity - we want love, food, security, and opportunity.

As much as we tried, we probably fell short of being "temporary locals" - but our willingness to try is exemplified in yesterday's lunch at a popular cafe in Minden, Germany - I ordered the curry wurst - and all the wonderful local pastries, wines and beers we tried.

Traveling with my BFF always works perfectly, even when we miss our connecting flight or get lost - his steady hand reminds me that all is okay in the world.  Traveling with my brothers and sisters-in-laws was a treasurable experience I won't soon forget, like Saturday afternoon when the 6 of us were piled in a rental minivan blasting down the Autobahn, listening to the Beatles!  Sharing giggles and more than a couple bottles of Spanish wine at Morley's with my sweet sisters-in-law is a real treat of a memory.  And the fact that all three of us Rank sibs avoid onions is only one of the many discoveries I made while hanging out with all of them.  Prost!

Saturday, April 5, 2014


We traveled beautiful countryside on Friday and met up again with our family in Minden, Germany - a small and quaint town with a couple of very old churches, including the 800 y/o Minden Cathedral.  Yes, I lit a candle for you.

We had a memorable evening, dining at a popular Mexican restaurant, and noted that Friday night is celebrated the same way here as back home - young adults sitting outside in small groups, drinking and laughing, and generally happy sounds welcoming the weekend in.

This morning, after sampling pastries from the local bakery, we went looking for even one of the 42 old windmills known to be in the area (by the travel books, anyway - not necessarily the locals).  We happily found one and then traveled a few kilometers to Hille, childhood town of sister-in-law Barb's maternal grandmother, Marie Louise Brandhorst.  Although the family home is gone, we walked the grounds of the church she attended, before she emigrated to the US as a 16 y/o.

At the cathedral in Minden, I read a note to visitors that included this in English, which I found especially useful to us travelers:  The Cathedral of Minden is a proclamation for you.  Don't just open your eyes, but your heart especially.  You will most assuredly go out into the world happier and more hopeful.  May God accompany you on your way.

Wow...look at the ivy possibilities!

Friday, April 4, 2014


Sleeping next to a castle built more than a thousand years ago that sits high above a quaint town is exhilarating (not to mention extremely scenic), especially because we met up with my brothers and sisters-in-laws on vacation!

We are in Eisenach, Germany - staying at the Hotel Auf Der Wartburg and situated next to Wartburg Castle, a place that St. Elizabeth of Hungary and Martin Luther (at very different times in history, of course) called home.

This castle sits above the city of Eisenach - birthplace of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Relaxing Rail Ride to Germany

We spent several hours today, traveling from Prague in the Czech Republic to Eisenach, Germany.  On the way, we stopped in Dresden and Leipzig - in both cities we had enough time to leave the station and walk around a bit, in an attempt to remember it.  We saw so many quaint villages on the rail ride, as well as a couple of small castles.  We talked a lot about how the Germans started in this region, taking over these "easy" targets, well in advance of what we consider the start of WWII (e.g., in 1938).  In Dresden, we talked about the bombings and of course Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five.

We talked about our dads who served in this war - mine in the Pacific Theatre serving in the Navy and Shawn's in the Army AirCorps, and eventually shot down and taken as a POW for 9 months.

Looking at the history of this world sure does explain a lot and does help us find our future.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Prague - Day 2

This morning we toured Prague Castle, the largest ancient castle in the world (about the size of 7 football fields).  Dating back to the 10th century, it was the traditional seat of the Czech rulers and is the official residence of the president of the Czech Republic.  The castle includes several palaces, the Basilica of St. George, the very Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral and lots of medieval-looking towers and halls and gardens.  It was thrilling to tour it and the views of the city are breathtaking.  We witnessed the Changing of the Guard at noon, complete with brass band.

To reach the castle, we experienced the legendary walking bridge - the Charles Bridge - Commissioned by King Charles IV in 1357.  It is stunning!  It spans 16 arches and is lined with 30 Baroque statues of religious figures. Of course we touched the brass plaque - a reminder of the Baroque saint (John of Nepomuk) - tradition says you get one chance in life to touch it and ask for your one wish to come true - yep, we jumped on THAT!  Walking the bridge was a good photo op and provided the best views of the Vltava River.  Holding hands, I kept thinking of all the historical fighting that happened on that bridge.

We hung out, again, in Prague's Old Town Square - I mean how often can you hear live street music in an area that has barely been touched, except for the food and beer stands, since the 10th century!

We toured the Jewish cemetery in the Jewish Quarter where an estimated 100,000 bodies were buried in layers, due to their limited area - 12 deep.  It takes you down and so we agreed to finish the day at the Communism Museum - wow, I'm glad that's over and that life in Prague seems so much better.  The museum is located between a casino and a McDonald's - oh the irony...

A dinner that included dumplings and Pilsner Urquell (and a nightcap of Lobkowicz) rounds out another perfect Prague adventure...

Tomorrow?  Germany, and a meetup with my brothers and sisters-in-laws!  Can't wait!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


We are here and ready for some fun...we know where your landmarks are and where we need to visit!  I didn't know I would have to channel my inner hipster so much - your freedom is so new that anything goes, it seems!  We saw roasted piglets, enjoyed beers and wine while walking the sites, saw evidence of cultural snubbing of anything religious...given the historical events of Jan Hus, it's little wonder the masses are agnostic - when you learn about what happened, you might be angry, too.

Unbelievable - this place was under rule by the communists just 24 years ago!  They are extremely liberal - I don't think we could shock them!  I like Prague - but truth be told, I'm a little buttoned up for some of what is here - where is Vienna?  There are no rules here, it seems!  No traffic lights anywhere, jaywalking is the norm...we see a kid driving another kid down a major intersection - on an office chair!  The streets are very old, with small tiles and lots of cobblestoes.

The Astromical Clock is one of the coolest things in Prague - there are 4 statues flanking the clock, representing the 15th century outlook on time and prejudices  - a Turk with a mandolin, symbolizing hedonism, a Jewish moneylender is greed, the figure staring into a mirror is vanity, and death, a skeleton who holds an hourglass, reminding us that our time is running out.   This is amazing  - but also reminds me of a simpler upbringing - we believe because we believe it is so.  

We experienced Prague, and it's freedom today - they are singing Coldplay and Fun in the streets - I'm glad to be here!