Sooner

Posted on March 31, 2018

I’ve been thinking a lot about the in-betweens, whether it’s the grey between black and white, the yes behind no and never, and saying, “This is good” when the place I wanted to get to still seems miles away. As is almost always the case, I can attribute the considering to the girls and kids in general, their ability to live in a realm where it’s ok to want things, ok to imagine that anything can happen, and, most bitingly, their ability to see what we cannot.

I want to take less time to relent; so much of what I resist is good for me and those around me. A couple of weeks ago I posted something on Instagram. There was something about the morning light and an unexpected wave of tenderness toward myself that prompted it.

 

Sitting in the beams of sunlight rolling through the first floor of our house. The girls slept at my parents and the quiet is like a sweet and sour candy, sugary indulgence with tartness that sneaks up and tightens my jaw. I choose to float inside the different emotions, absentmindedly flipping through images on a brand’s IG account. “If only I had the nerve to dress like that.” The thought blasted and I felt the let down of not going for it on the global level—of reserving daring, boldness, sexiness, and selfishness for others. “It’s not me,” is something I think a lot of us say, but why? Last year at about this time I found out I was nominated for a @mom2summit #IrisAward . The category was for Best Writing and I allowed myself exactly one hour of feet not touching the ground, breathless rapture before telling myself that I would never win. I literally didn’t allow myself to even imagine winning after that one exquisite hour of maybe. What would happen if we allowed ourselves (commanded ourselves) to let the moments of “Oh, how I wish I had the nerve,” to become declarations of “Here I go.” Whether it’s wearing a fedora or scheduling a boudoir shoot, running for office or giving your notice. How would the world open up if we stopped saying, “I couldn’t possibly” and “It will never happen.” When I heard my name called and realized it really was me they were inviting to the stage to claim the award I trembled, like literally quaked. The ground beneath me felt foreign and I half expected someone to call out that it wasn’t mine. Our willingness to deny our own light is life-altering. I am still scared and riddled with doubt, but damnit, I want to hold hands with you and race forward breaking through all we think we can’t like some magnificent winning of a game of Red Rover, Red Rover. Will you come with me? Whatever that means for you…you can. #selfconfidencenow

 

The comments on that post made me realize that there are so many of us bobbing along in the water, hoping that the tide will somehow carry us into shore where we can finally begin. We don’t realize that we are the sea—the stillness and the strength, the waves and the spray, but we are also the undertow.

We can make everything happen sooner. Today can be the day that we begin to quiet the words of doubt or the day that we conquer a fear. If doing it for ourselves is too much, we can begin with a friend or someone we love. The only catch is we then have to look ourselves in the mirror and answer honestly why we wouldn’t be every bit of deserving of time, patience, grace, or love as anyone else.

 

Another Story

Posted on March 15, 2018

Life has been hectic lately.

 

 

 

I’m just going to give that statement a little space, feel free to take a moment yourself to just push away from all the things you have to do and acknowledge all the things you have done, or the angry words you haven’t spoken, or the sweet recovery you made after saying an angry word. Whatever you need, I am sure your life is hectic too.

Yesterday I felt a bit like I was in one of those carnival features where you sit on a wobbly seat over a vat of water. People through things at a target and if it connects you are dropped into the water—over and over and over again. I managed to get a few things done, one of which was a post about our company’s 15th anniversary (officially in November) in honor of National Write Your Story Day. It was a little tricky because often I separate work from life as it pertains to writing.

It occurs to me that it’s all connected and, while the post would have been very different if I’d intended to post it here, it’s still a part of my story.

 

Today is National Write Your Story Day. As a partner at an agency that specializes in storytelling, through visual elements and words, I can’t help but approach this day with delight. We’re celebrating our 15th year in business and I want to take the opportunity to look back on all that has changed around us, personally and professionally.

It was late fall 2003 when we incorporated. We shook hands as newlyweds and new parents at a campground in Dorset, Vermont, pledging to create a company that puts family first and would have an unerring focus on design and communication that hit the mark. The early months were lean, with late nights and light paychecks (if any). Two of us held full-time jobs to keep us all covered by health insurance, the books were done after bedtime, headlines written before sunrise.

Our first studio was reminiscent of an old-time private investigator’s office—frosted window on the door, black and gold foil lettering, levered transoms and wood paneled walls. There was an elevator operator who warned us, “Don’t be leaving the windows open, the pigeons’ll get in and leave a holy mess in the place.” It was the first of many times we listened to the wisdom of others. Another gem, “If it doesn’t work kill it fast.”

We’ve moved three times since that first office, grown from two full-time employees to 16. The staff and partners are raising a total of 8 kids—with one in college and another heading off next year. Family first continues to define our corporate values.

These days, we text from meetings and display work on iPads, when we started it was printouts and Nextel walkie-talkies. LinkedIn launched in May of 2003, but all the platforms that we use today were still years from development. Annual reports were printed, websites were standard-issue html that hadn’t yet been influenced by user reviews, and the Yellow Pages still featured prominently in advertising plans and budgets.

We hired our first full-time employee in 2005, which was the year that YouTube came on the scene. It was also the year that Trampoline was voted the New Business of the Year by the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce. Things began to move quickly after that, as Twitter and Facebook opened to the public in 2006. Sadly, it also marked the final season of The West Wing.

In 2007 Apple launched the iPhone, and Mad Men made its debut. We continued to avoid creating a public-facing niche for ourselves, preferring instead to adapt to the needs of our clients.

Since that turning point we’ve made jumps in size from 6 to 9 employees, 9 to 12, and to our current size of 16 with three new job openings. Through the shifts in size and industry trends, and client goals, that Vermont handshake has been at our core. Our studio has a designated pumping space for new moms. There are dogs in the shop more often than not or trips to let dogs out, as the definition of family is interpreted broadly and enthusiastically.

The connection to family and the understanding that young people are the most potent connection to trends, keeps us honest about how we research and execute ideas. A memorable example was a project partnering with the local high school’s innovations class to produce a 3D printed rendering of mountains for a ski destination project. We endeavor to keep the ‘Trampoline family’ balanced in age, experience, gender, and perspective to keep us on a track toward audience engagement.

As social media platforms have been embraced and as people’s sensitivity to cost, the environment, and timelines have impacted printing, it’s become more critical than ever to generate concepts and execution plans that consider the various scenarios in which an audience will be delivered a message.

We have seen the turn from a traditional studio environment to a more remote model. We’re impressed by how some companies have made that work for them, but outside of snow days and childcare/pet sitting emergencies, our product and process are more effective face-to-face.

As we look at what we hope will be our next fifteen years, we can’t wait to see the new tools that are sure to come in the evolution of language and communication. We’ll do our best to keep up, but more importantly to focus on keeping what works for us, and for our clients, and letting the rest become small footnotes in history.

The Cuts That Echo

Posted on March 10, 2018

A couple of weeks ago conversation at my office turned to ordering clothes online as we discussed what we would wear to an industry awards ceremony. I found myself completely blown away by how commonplace self-criticism is, and, more poignantly, how inaccurate the laments were. The history of the “flaws” jumped in relief as women talked candidly about what didn’t work on them and why. I was too flip about brushing off their worries, because these things we carry, the words from the past echo and influence us for so long, they do exist.

When I was 9 my best friend lived across the street from me. We usually played alone, but sometimes her brother would come out with his Darth Vader Star Wars character carrying case and let us play with the figures. One day we were playing in the side yard; I was making a Jawa walk along the edge of a fence post, my best friend was making a nest for Princess Leia beneath a bush, and her brother Chris was crouched beneath the bushes making Darth Vader kick up dirt.

“You know you’ll always be fat,” he said

My hand stopped moving as I turned to face Chris. “What?”

“You aren’t small like my sister,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. Chris spent most of his time angry and picked fights.

“I’m not fat,” I said.

He stood up, walked over to me, and pointed to the edge of my overalls. “See how the skin under your arm has creases? That’s fat. You’re fat,” he said matter of factly and watched my face.

I went back to playing while my mind worked furiously, how had I not known about this fatness. I knew my shock had been evident and I needed never to let that happen again. I wish I’d been thinking of my insides and not my outside. To this day, those folds are the first thing I see on myself. Rationally I know it’s nothing, but some days with my arms folded over a towel as I brush my teeth in the bathroom, I’m nine again.

Since those conversations at the office I’ve been thinking about how words echo with a deafening roar that no one else can hear. I’m gutted by how we dismiss what other people hear—we tell them they are wasting time, that they are blind, or at our worst, we mutter that they’re chasing compliments. What we rarely acknowledge is that their spirits scar from the oppressive ringing, decades of echoes, the voices layered and unrelenting. I wonder why we hesitate to tell someone that they look lovely or that we are glad that they are in our lives. Why don’t we say these things to ourselves?

The night of the awards I looked around at the people, the faces I am used to seeing pointed toward a monitor were lit up with excitement. We whistled and complimented one another, for a time leaving the aftershocks of doubt behind us. I don’t know if it’s possible to unring a bell, but I do think that when we say some of these things aloud, they lose a bit of power.

We shouldn’t be ashamed of how people told us we were flawed or broken; we should feel powerful for surviving them.

 

Dad2.0: A Conference for Dads & a Conversation About #MeToo

Posted on February 13, 2018

A little over a month ago I received a message from Doug French about speaking on a panel at the Dad2.0 Summit in New Orleans. I was at work and found myself slipping on my readers and leaning into the monitor to see the words in the small window.

“…it’s about gender relations going forward, and how men in particular can contribute by listening, etc. You’ve written a lot about it, and Asha and I thought of you when we were discussing it. If this is even a possibility at this point, could we set a time for a call?”

The timing could not have been more perfect or more challenging. I’ve been stuck; not knowing how to channel all that I’ve been feeling, but also so busy at work that it’s been easy to ignore everything but the most pressing demands. I miss writing, but I want more. I want to dig into conversations that go beyond text boxes. I don’t want to accept my anger or my pain as action enough. Hearing Asha’s name piqued my interest. She has been a purpose personified as the events and movements unfolding in our country have moved her to say, “I must act.”

Her posts about calling politicians drove me to pick up the phone, even as my hand and voice shook. Her unwavering kindness also influenced me. We can be strong and maintain soft edges, have opinions and compassion. I went back and forth with Doug about the panel and asked Sean what he thought.

“I mean, can I possibly go? We’re so busy and I don’t know what this would really mean.”

“Amanda, if they invite you, you go. You belong there and need to do this.”

It was the answer I wanted, which made guilt creep in until I remembered how it’s felt to watch the headlines, or to go on twitter, or to walk down the street. Being busy our having writer’s block doesn’t make me stop being a woman or a parent of three daughters in a world that still gives the benefit of doubt to someone other than women.

I booked the flights and hotel room with tickets for Sean. We made our way to New Orleans and met with the other panelists Saturday morning. We all waited a bit anxiously, or maybe just me, as the doors opened for our session. The tables began to fill, but the remarkable thing was that as we kicked off, the guys kept pouring in the door. I saw friendly faces from Mom2.0 in Laurie White and Laura Mayes. We shared the mic and had a frank discussion about privilege, responsibility, and perspective.

I am used to having a supportive partner, but being in a room that was filled with men wanting to participate, made me feel something I’m not even sure that I can articulate. Much of it is a blur, but I remember talking about the idea of knowing that someone is out there trying to do their part in their circles being a comfort. When I begin to think of it in those terms, it doesn’t seem so insurmountable. It feels like we can make a difference, as Karen said, “If we stay true to that, I think we’ll be all right.”

 

Here is a glimpse inside the room where Karen Walrond, Mike Reynolds, Kimmy Wolf, Joe Spector, and Creed Anthony participated in an unfiltered conversation about what comes after #MeToo . Thanks again to Doug and Asha for presenting this opportunity to me and to Whit Honea for making me feel at home and for helping me see that there are many of us working to change things.

 

Following Signals

Posted on January 30, 2018

Sean and I have this saying, “It’s a push.” We say it when an opportunity presents itself or when something bad happens. It’s a push to take a chance, make a change, or acknowledge that something is done. Ideally, there is only one push at a time or there are multiple pushes that point toward the same thing.

The end of 2017 into 2018 was a massive swell of pushes, so much so that I got a bit lost. It’s like when I set up a baking project in the kitchen with all three girls and they each have questions—

“Can I crack the eggs?”

“Does this look right?”

“Do I need a second measuring cup?”

“Did Beso fart?”

“Alexa, turn up the music.”

“I’m kind of hungry.”

“Avery! WHY DID YOU DO THAT?”

And then the dog and both cats walk in, the doorbell rings, and Alexa starts playing Chainsmokers’ Closer two ticks too loud.

It all becomes too much to process and I crumble. I can feel myself faltering and rather than tuning something out in order to focus, I get stuck.

“Alexa!”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t get that,” Alexa says and Closer comes back on, inexplicably louder, and the girls parrot Alexa, “I’m sorry, I didn’t get that.” The dog runs to the door spraying urine like a fire hose as he barks. The cat jumps on the counter and a text comes through from Sean, “What are you doing?” By some benevolent twist of fate, I don’t think I’ve ever completely snapped, but I’ve come close.

Back to the idea of pushes. I always knew that my writing would shift, I saw other writers transition from writing about child rearing to re-entering the workforce or building toward publishing a book. Some writers simply stopped, fading quietly away only to resurface occasionally on different social media platforms. I understood, even as I grieved.

The push I got was to write and live using the same template I was teaching the girls. Courage, tenacity, advocacy—I talked a big talk, but when it came time to live it, it was often inconvenient, unrealistic, and uncomfortable. I’d love to say that the push was something about wanting to be a better person, but it was actually the repetition of witnessing other people be silenced. It came to a point that I had no choice. I watched it happen on twitter and on the street. I saw it in the grocery store, at the gym, and on tv. The tv instances weren’t so much silencing as they were outright absence.

The roar of injustice and futility became deafening and I froze. Where do you even start? Who am I? I’m certainly not the perfect witness or speaker. The neighbor’s boys that digitally penetrated the girls in the neighborhood. I don’t have back up witnesses who will say, “I remember when she told me after being called in at sundown that during the game of tag the boys repeatedly “captured the girls” by putting their hands down their pants and carrying them across the street. This is the kind of testimony you see in so many of the “believable” #MeToo stories. Nope. I don’t have that.

I haven’t been involved in policy, haven’t known about implicit bias and structural racism. I am only just understanding intersectionality and comprehending the idea of holding space, listening, and using my privilege. Writing this tonight, I know that there is so much more that I don’t even know exists. This is very plainly like how I came into motherhood. I didn’t know what I was doing, but it legitimately became life or death and I did the work.

This week we are hosting my parents’ dog Sophie. She is very sweet and irresistible to anyone who meets her. She is also afraid of everything from the wind and her shadow, to the sound of, well, any sounds really. This means I have taken to walking outside with her in the morning to coax her back inside after relieving herself. We also hand feed her and make her beds of fuzzy blankets and pillows, and generally think, “Man, in my next life I think I’d like to be Sophie.”

As so often happens in life, the inconveniences or detours offer insight. My morning and nights with Sophie are introducing me to quiet and light, crisp air that makes my eyes water and uninterrupted time that clarifies and reminds me of how wide open the world is if we quiet the distractions.

Friday I’ll fly to New Orleans with Sean by my side. Our girls will be with a dear friend who has adopted us as extended family. I’ll be at the Dad 2.0 Summit speaking on a panel about the #MeToo movement and what the next steps are for dads as they navigate parenting, social media, and being men in a country that makes it hard to believe women and support women, and even harder to raise boys who will be men that defy stereotypes. I’ll be there because I was given a push.

I’m grateful and open to these moments. I am hitting publish on this as the president takes the stage for the State of the Union. I know with everything in me, the state of our union depends heavily on the way each of us participates or opts out of participation.

I think we can do this.

 

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