Category Archives: Personal

A Customer Service and Marketing Lesson from Club Wyndham Resorts

CW_Twitter_Icon_400x400We’ve all been there – on a well-deserved and long-awaited vacation, when you get “the pitch.” Someone from the resort interrupts your day to ask if you’d give them just 90 minutes to come look at a time share. They’re aggressive, but you really don’t want to give up time in the sun having fun with your family, so you politely say no. Most of the time they accept your decline, encourage you to call if you change your mind, remind you of the lovely dinner gift certificate you can get, and move on.

Well, not Club Wyndham. They don’t take no for an answer.

My family arrived in North Myrtle Beach Thursday night after a very long car ride from Boston. We were looking forward to a nice, quiet beach vacation. When we pulled into the parking garage, we were greeted by a lovely gentleman named Bill, who happened to also be from Boston (Watertown, to be exact) and was a former Harvard University police offer. Bill was awesome.

Bill’s colleagues could stand to take some lessons from him. 

We proceeded to the third floor to check in. Annie at the front desk was pleasant enough. Then she sent us to another desk to “get our parking pass.” This process was less about getting our parking pass and more about three women accosting us with more paperwork than a plastic surgeon, and a hard core pitch on spending 90 minutes the first morning of our vacation attending a “presentation” that was “just so you can get to know more about Wyndham, because we don’t advertise, so we’d love for you to tell people about your experience.”

You got it, Wyndham. Here’s our experience.

I very politely declined. They then “upped the ante” with new offers of dinner certificates, “cruise” packages (more dinner certificates on a cruise if you paid to take the cruise) and more. They didn’t seem to get that 90 minutes taken out of my very short vacation with my family was not worth $200 to me. My time with my family and in the sun was way  more important.

But they wouldn’t take no for an answer. When my fiancé came back to get us, I was so overwhelmed with all the paperwork that had just been shoved in my face, that I very politely again said we would need to go talk about it, trying to get him (and my four kids who were sitting there still holding their bags and very tired) to walk away before they wasted 20 more minutes of our time. The woman – we nicknamed her “Manhattan” because that’s where she was from (and she never told us her name) – suggested that I take the bags and go upstairs with the kids, and they would then repeat the pitch and tell my fiancé all about the “deals” that we “really shouldn’t pass up.”

I again stated that we would need to talk about it, we weren’t going to commit right there, and that we both had work conference calls the next morning anyway, so it was unlikely we would attend. I was trying to be nice.

Nice doesn’t work.

They filled out paperwork and signed us up anyway, and told us to “let them know if we decided we wouldn’t attend.” Fine, whatever it took to get out of there and get out to the pool!

When we finally got up to our room a half hour later, we dropped of our bags and my fiancé  needed to go park the car. But… no parking pass. The women had been so busy with their pitches for the 90 minute presentation and the push to all of their suggested vendors to patron, that they forgot to even give us a a parking pass!

So my fiancé  had to go back down and get the pass. And he got pitched again. When he finally flat out explained that our time with family was more valuable than a $200 gift certificate, he was given a rude wave, shooing him away and a “fine, goodbye” from Ms. Manhattan.

Class act, Wyndham, class act.

So we were pretty upset. The entire situation set a very negative tone. But we had said no and so we went about our evening.

This morning we awoke to a note under the door, indicating we should call Amber at the Hospitality Desk. We were excited, thinking maybe they were going to upgrade our room to an oceanside view like we had requested.

Nope.

The call was so that Amber could “reschedule us” because we hadn’t shown up for the 8:30 presentation. Apparently, Ms. Manhattan didn’t take our “No” to heart and left us on the list anyway.

We checked out Friday morning and got our money back. We weren’t about to spend our vacation continually bullied and pressured into a situation we didn’t want. It was beyond uncomfortable and Wyndham didn’t deserve our dollars.

There’s a customer service and marketing lesson or two in here:

  • Know your audience – when I filled out the form indicating our preferences, household income, etc., it should have been clear that $200 for our time wasn’t something that would really entice us.
  • Listen to your audience – look, we’re all in sales. We get it. But when your audience isn’t responding favorably to your tactics, you don’t do more of the same. You figure out a new strategy.
  • Train your marketing, sales, customer service and all departments that the customer experience relies on all of them to do their job well. It didn’t matter that Bill was nice and welcoming – his colleagues didn’t follow suite, and thus, we left and they lost revenue.

There are more to be had but like I said, I am on vacation and, thanks to Wyndham, have lost nearly a full day in the sun with my kids to rescheduling, rebooking and moving to another hotel (also adding a half hour more to our drive home). It’s time for me to get out in the sun.

One last note – our check out was lovely. The manager was pleasant and understanding and apologetic. Ironically, he, too, was from Massachusetts, one town over from us. So our two most pleasant interactions at the Wyndham Towers on the Grove were with people from our hometown. Way to go, Boston.

Changes to Change Your Life

“Ordinary people seek entertainment. Extraordinary people seek education and learning.”

As I grow older, I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to improve my life. I get the “itch” to do something drastic and different. But maybe it’s about changing more of the little things rather than just one big thing.

This is undoubtedly one of the most inspiring posts I’ve read this year. I’m going to strive to follow the advice here, (although I already do a few of them). Check it out and let me know the changes you see if you take these on! I’ll be sure to share my experiences as well.

50 Ways Happier, Healthier, And More Successful People Live On Their Own Terms

What “I Love You” Means

Love is complicated. Love makes people crazy. Love can be euphoric.

I think the best summation I’ve read of love is from Cheryl Strayed, bestselling author of “Wild” and “Tiny Beautiful Things.” In the latter, she explains her definition:

“A proclamation of love is not inherently ‘loaded with promises and commitments that are highly fragile and easily broken.’ The terms you agree to in any given relationship are connected to, but not defined by, whether you’ve said ‘I love you’ or not. ‘I love you’ can mean I think you’re groovy and beautiful and I’m going to do everything in my power to be your partner for the rest of my life. It can mean I think you’re groovy and beautiful but I’m in transition right now, so let’s go easy on the promises and take it as it comes. It can mean I think you’re groovy and beautiful but I’m not interested in a commitment with you, now or probably ever, no matter how groovy or beautiful you continue to be.”

This is part of one of her Sugar advice columns, where she continues:

“The point is, Johnny, you get to say. You get to define the terms of your life. You get to negotiate and articulate the complexities and contradictions of your feelings.”

You get to say. And if anyone you love starts to tell you that your definition of love must match theirs, it’s time for a serious conversation. Perhaps this is why love goes so wrong so often – we stop accepting our partner’s definition and instead try to make them fit into ours. Accept the love, or don’t. But don’t try to change it.

She concludes with, “Be brave, Be authentic, Practice saying the word ‘love’ to the people you love so when it matters the most to say it, you will.”

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Peace On Earth? Probably Not. But That Doesn’t Mean We Should Stop Trying.

“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively”  ― Bob Marley

“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively”
― Bob Marley

Today is Tuesday, December 16. My heart is heavy. One could say I’m emotional about the holidays, as I tend to be, but it’s more than that today. In the last 24 hours, the earth has been anything but peaceful. On Monday morning, we woke up to reports of a hostage situation in Sydney, Australia, and a mass shooting in Pennsylania, where a suspect who killed his ex wife and her family is still on the loose. This morning we learned that the Taliban had slaughtered 132 children and nine adults in a school in Pakistan, ranging in ages from 10 to 18. I simply cannot fathom that carnage.

Hanukkah started today. Christmas is just nine days away. Many of us are busy stressing out about getting the shopping and the wrapping done, whether or not the kids will like their gifts, and how to fit in everything that needs to be finished before year’s end. We’re hoping no one gets sick, that our travels are safe, and we’re thinking about what we’ll do for New Years. We’re Instagramming and Facebooking our great holiday moments, and we’re shopping and baking and caroling. But today, take a moment to pause and look around. Try to put your worries into perspective. Try to put your blessings into perspective. Don’t ignore what’s happening in the world, but rather take a moment to really think about it – and what little things you can do to try and make it a better place, despite these horrors around us.

We can try every day to be harbingers of peace.

I’m not naïve enough to believe in world peace. But, I do believe that we have the power within us as individuals to do small things that can make a long term difference as a larger whole. We can try every day to be harbingers of peace. We can strive to be truly good – to hold the door for a stranger, to let someone step in line in front of us, to drop ridiculous grudges and frivolous lawsuits. We can forgive. We can stop being so narcissistic, only thinking about our own needs. We can become aware and stop hatred and jealousy when we feel it arriving in our hearts. We can truly teach our children through our own actions to love and to be kind; to be colorblind and to see humans  – good and bad – as the individual people they are, not judging them because of their color, sexual orientation, gender or lot in life.

We can’t stop mad men like those responsible for the horrible events of this week. But, we can support entities that help with mental illness (which is often a cause of mass shootings). We can make an effort to better understand and treat it, as well as depression – and not to avoid the topics simply because they make us uncomfortable. We can send a care package to a soldier who is fighting for our freedom. We can take a stand on gun control. We can vote. We can help build a home for those in need, instead of taking that family vacation.

It’s easy to get caught up in our own lives. We get so wrapped up in the ridiculousness and eccentricity of it all, as perfectly captured on any one of the reality TV shows here in the U.S. Keeping up with the Joneses is still a thing – whether we want to admit it or not. So this year, when you’re making your resolutions, try to think bigger. Go beyond the weight loss wishes or the promotion goals, and think about what you can truly do to try and spread light in this world. I’m making that vow, and I hope you will, too. I’ve constantly got to remind myself to let go of stress around silly things. I have a daily reminder in my phone to think about my blessings and the joy in my life, and I am making a commitment to do one major volunteer effort this year with my family. I’m donating my time to help with two organizations that take care of those with life-threatening conditions. And daily, I’m simply trying to be conscientious of others around me – letting someone pull out in front of me while driving, or giving someone my spot in the grocery line when I’ve got 20 things and they’ve got two. Tipping well.

Little things every day.

If we can do enough good things, no matter how small, perhaps they will begin to dominate the headlines. Never stop trying to make this world a more peaceful and happy place – even if it’s just in your little corner. Smile at a stranger. Pull a “Pay it Forward” move in the coffee line. Volunteer in the middle of the summer, when you may have to give up a day at the beach to do so. Foster a dog.

I’d love to hear your ideas for making the world a more peaceful place. What have you done, or will you do, to shine a little light in 2015? Wishing you all a blessed and peaceful New Year.

 

Photo by Francesco; used under Creative Commons license.

#TBT: On Becoming A Working Mother

When I speak at events or colleges, I often get questions from young women about how I “do it all.” They have concerns, especially, about becoming mothers and continuing their careers. They always ask about work/life balance.

In honor of the weekly social media tradition of “Throwback Thursday” (or #TBT), I thought I would share this very personal piece of my journal writing that I recently found from 2000. It is raw and honest – and you can see that I had a lot of the same fears. Two years later, I became a mother for the first time. I was terrified.

It was May 2002. I was eight months pregnant and had just moved into a new home two days earlier. I was en route to meet the new VP of Marketing at a client’s office, but because my ankles were so damn swollen (for two days – what a stressful thing like moving can do to a pregnant lady!), my then-husband had insisted I call the doctor’s office. They insisted I come in and see them. I did – and told them I was in a rush because I had a meeting to get to. They promptly told me to drive myself to the hospital because I wasn’t having a meeting with anyone but my new baby, who was on his way a month early.

I couldn’t reach my husband. I was driving myself to the hospital. My house was full of moving boxes. There was no pretty nursery set up yet. It wasn’t supposed to work like this.

I was crying, alone and afraid. But heres’ the thing I learned – and continue to be reminded of:

You get through it.

There’s a reason for that saying, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” You can’t plan it all perfectly. But don’t be afraid of the experience. If your career is important to you and motherhood is too, you can do both.

You’ll figure it out.

I did – and I’m now a single, divorced mother of two (although I do now have a loving and supportive partner in my boyfriend, who helps a LOT). I lived through it all, and you will too.

So here it is – my very raw journal entry from the year 2000, based on a writing exercise to take a word (in this case, “hunger”) and write your free-flowing thoughts on it. You can tell what was on my mind – I was navigating adulthood, parenthood, marriage, career.

I hope it helps you. Perhaps it will if you’re scared of becoming a mother, or juggling a career and parenthood, etc. Happy #TBT.

I hunger for a life that is balanced, soulful, meaningful.  I hunger to be remembered, fondly and admiringly, when I am gone.  I hunger to make a mark on the world that is original, creative and meaningful.  I hunger to understand how to do this, where to begin, or if I already have.  I hunger to be unique, interesting and someone who has bettered the world in some way.  I’m not sure why … why this is important to me.  It’s not like I’ll know after I’m gone whether or not anything was better because of me.  Perhaps though, I will make a mark on a person or a child, and allow them to live a more meaningful and poignant life.

I hunger to be a good person who is kind, loving, open and can make people feel special.  It would be great to be one of those people that make someone feel so special when they talk to you.  The kind of person that look at you so intently and pays such close attention when you talk that you feel like such an important person – you feel happy; you feel significant.

I hunger to find and discover what my heart truly wants.  The problem is I keep looking for one answer and I have a feeling there are many, numerous answers.  I want to have a career but am torn between the one I have and am successful at, or the one that I used to desire so much in my heart, that would bring me personal satisfaction in a more creative aspect.  They both bring personal satisfaction but in different ways.  One is financial and ego, the other is creative and quiet.

I also hunger to be a mother some day but am scared of it.  Scared of giving up my life’s dreams and the goals I have not yet accomplished.  Is this what being a mother means?  Does it have to do that?  It has to be selfless, right? So how can you be a mother and still pursue your lofty life goals as well?  I hunger to be a wonderful mother, as I’m sure most women do, but what if I screw up?  What if my child thinks I’m a dork, or stupid or irritating?  How must that feel?  On the other hand, it must feel so wonderful to have a child look at you as though you are the most important person in the world, the defining light in their life.  I want to be a mother but can it, will it, how does it, fit in with the other things I want as well?  Is this selfish of me?  I don’t’ want to become a mother and end up at home with the children all day, not seeing any adults that keep me stimulated in other ways with conversation and companionship, and have my husband off in the world meeting new people, experiencing new things, seeing new parts of the world.

I don’t want to be left behind.

My Son Was Bullied. Here’s What I Did And The Reaction I Received From Other Parents

As I drove home from a conference in New York City yesterday, I was listening to “Overcoming” from January 3, 2014 on NPR’s TED Radio Hour Podcast. One of the stories in this particular hour (starts at minute 13:35) was from a spoken word artist, Shane Koyczan, who talks about his experiences being bullied as a child. He discusses how we are expected to define ourselves at an early age – and that if we don’t do it for ourselves, others will. Hence, he let others define him for a while in his adolescence, and became something he despised – from bullied, to bully. He gives a glimpse into his painful experiences in To This Day, his spoken-word poem about bullying, here.

It was particularly interesting timing that I happened to listen to this story yesterday. Later in the afternoon, I picked my 11-year-old up at the bus stop. He got into the car and burst into tears. After some coercing to tell me what was wrong, he admitted that he had been verbally attacked by a group of boys in the locker room after gym class. Apparently, he had the “audacity” to change from his shorts back into his sweatpants in the general locker room area, instead of going into a stall. Therefore, in the minds of 11- and 12-year-olds trying to be cool, he was suddenly considered gay. One boy started out by yelling that he was gay, and a group of more boys chimed in and began chanting, “He’s gay, he’s gay, he’s gay.”

Now let me be very clear on one thing. I openly talk with both of my sons (11 and 8) about what “gay” means. They will tell you two definitions (I know, because I checked yet again with my younger son this morning, and he recited what we’ve talked about):

  1. To be happy or gleeful
  2. A slang term for someone who is romantically interested in the same gender

I also instill in my sons that there is nothing wrong with being gay. We have many gay friends, and we delight in their happiness, support them in their struggles and define them by who they are, not who they love. My sons have been taught to see beyond sexuality, gender, race, etc. At least, it’s an ongoing lesson in our home to love people for who they are, and to try and live outside of life’s enduring stereotypes.

Let me also be clear that I don’t think my son is gay. But I wouldn’t give a damn if he was.

Nonetheless, I was extremely upset about the bullying and the pack mentality. Even some of my son’s “friends” joined in, and this was very confusing to him.

At first, I was shocked. I honestly didn’t know what to say. I was angry. I envisioned myself pulling a Debbie (Leslie Mann) from This is 40, and screaming at the boy who started it all. But obviously, I couldn’t do that.

What I could do was talk to my son. And we talked a lot. We talked about how the scenario made him feel. We talked about why he didn’t stand up for himself more. We talked about being embarrassed and scared and the pit in his stomach. We talked about how I handled my own bullying episodes in high school. We looked at videos and talked about quotes, like “Being brave isn’t supposed to be easy,” from Sam Berns, the 17-year-old Massachusetts boy who recently died from Progeria.

We talked about being gay. We talked about tolerance and acceptance for others. We talked about how it’s so much harder to stand up and do the right thing when jumping on the bandwagon to do the wrong thing isn’t only easier, but considered cooler (at this age).

I am so grateful that my son talks to me and trusts me. I want it to last. I never want him to feel I’ve betrayed him.

And so – what else can I do as a mother to help him? I don’t want to make things worse for him. Would talking to the bully’s parents do that? What about the school? What if they pulled him and all the other boys into the principle’s office and then he was an outcast forever?

There are never clear cut, easy answers in a situation like this.

I decided to keep it simple, yet still take a chance. I took to the Facebook page for the parents of his class. Typical posts are about upcoming events, PTO meetings, fundraisers and the like. But I wanted to ask one simple thing of the parents. I took a deep breath and I wrote,

My son was bullied again today in the 6th grade boys locker room – called “gay” for changing IN A LOCKER ROOM. He identified the boy who started it, but many joined in chanting “he’s gay.”

Please, I implore you to speak to your children about tolerance, bullying and standing up for what’s right – instead of jumping in on what isn’t – just to “look cool.”

Christine

I was nervous. Would I be chastised for bringing such a sensitive issue to a page usually reserved for fun and light hearted posts? Would I be considered an overly sensitive single Mom who seemed to have no one to talk to at home? Would I put my son in a position of being bullied even more for “telling?” Would I come across as upset about the “gay” comment vs the act of bullying?

Within hours the post had about 20 comments (notably, all mothers except for one Dad) and several people reached out to me with private messages. I am happy to report that all of them were open minded and supportive. Most of them said that they had talked to their children about the situation, whether or not they were involved, and met my plea to discuss tolerance and bravery in doing the right thing. Many suggested I speak to the school, and shared their experiences in doing so (positive and negative).

One brave Mom reached out to say that she spoke to her son and he admitted he was not only present, but joined in on the taunting. She said he wanted to apologize. And not only did he do so via phone to my son, but he talked about how he had been bullied for his size before, and that he should have known how much it hurts.

This is why we have to keep talking to our children. They are faced with choices every day to be the brave outlier, or the follower – of both good and bad situations. I encourage you to show them examples over and over again of those who stand up for what’s right. Those who are different or “weird,” as my son is also called, or those who think differently.

I recently watched Jobs with my sons and it’s actually helped in this situation. Seeing that Steve Jobs thought differently, had to fight to get people to understand him, and was fired from his own company but never gave up, has been a great source of lessons for my son. He’s even changed his Instagram profile to read “Considered weird. But so was Steve Jobs.”

Although I’m not as cool as Steve Jobs, I always tell my sons that weird is good. It means you’ve got your own mind and the heart to think for yourself. I never want that to be squeezed out of their personalities.

And although it was inevitable that someone said “kids will be kids,” as adults often do in these sort of situations, I was encouraged by the reactions and responses we received. We can’t take bullying lightly. At such vulnerable ages, bullying can shape someone’s opinion of themselves before they are even sure who they are or what they want to be. And its negative effects can last a lifetime.

We can’t dismiss abusive behaviors and we need to teach children not to jump on the bandwagon. What if the next time that bandwagon is to try drugs? Or beat someone because they’re different? Or to drive drunk? I imagine, like me, you would want your son or daughter to say “Nope, not me. I’m not doing that, I don’t care what you say.” And I would expect my sons to not only not join in on a situation like the one my son faced yesterday – but to stand up against the crowd and do the right thing. To be that brave soul. To lead, not follow.

The bigger lessons start now with even the seemingly “smallest” of situations. Keep talking. Keep teaching. Keep supporting one another. We can make change, together.

13 Reflections From 2013

As we close yet another year this week, reflection is a natural emotion for many of us. I thought of writing about lessons I’ve learned this year, or 14 business tips for 2014, or even sharing once again my likely-to-be-half-fulfilled resolutions, but I think I’ll simply share some personal and professional reflections from my year. Whether they become guiding principles, shared insights or merely tips of what to do – or not to do – for you, likely depends on your own situation as you enter 2014. In any event, I hope they prove to be helpful in some way or another. As always, thanks for reading.

13.  There is no fair fairy – I grew up with my mother telling me this. I hated it. But she’s right. Life simply isn’t fair, and you’ve got to learn to deal with it. Sitting around comparing the haves with the have nots doesn’t do much to change this fact. Instead, I’m trying to stay focused on what my blessings are, while at the same time recognizing things that aren’t going well, and creating plans to change whatever I can.

12. Two of the most screwed up things about America are our legal system and our health care system. Given the Obama Care challenges, I don’t think I need to explain the latter too much. But quite simply, health care should be something we work hard to ensure everyone has. I’ve seen too many unemployed friends struggle with no health care this year, or insurance agencies denying claims for people who really need help, and have faithfully paid into insurance month after month, year after year for decades – only to be denied help when they need it most. It’s quite despicable, actually, and it isn’t new. We need to work together to fix this longstanding issue in countries worldwide.

I loved law class in college. I dove into it with vigor, enjoyed arguing cases and received an A.  But as I’ve grown older, I’ve unfortunately been exposed to the intricacies of our legal system and the unnecessary billing of lawyers who jack up hours doing things they don’t really need to do. In addition, the entire “innocent until proven guilty” idea is a nice concept but they fail to mention that you have to come up with the money to prove your innocence. This is one of the reasons the rich get richer. They can afford to drag you around the legal system with appeal after appeal – even after you’ve won – and ultimately, you could run out of money and end up unable to defend yourself. If you’ve ever had to answer an interrogatory, you also know how much time and money is wasted – again, increasing bills for items that may never come into play in a case.

11. Divorce sucks. After a painful two-year separation, mine was finalized in early 2013. There’s no getting around it – it sucks. Even if you are the person who initiated the divorce, it still sucks. No one goes into a marriage planning this as the exit (at least no one I know) – but sometimes it’s the only way out of something that went South in a way that you never imagined. The only advice I have is to listen to yourself. Do a LOT of soul searching before making this decision, if you’re the one initiating it – actually, even if you’re not, and you’re the one being left, do a lot of soul searching. Take a sabbatical if you can, read Crazy Time, find a good therapist, and realize you’re not alone. Remember, everything gets better with time. It will never feel quite right no matter what – divorce is, after all, the death of a dream and a life that will not be. It doesn’t mean you’ll never be happy again, but you will likely always feel that loss – even if you’re so angry right now you can’t imagine ever feeling that way – trust me, it will always be a loss.

10.  I’m definitely getting old – I know this not only because of my age, drooping eyelids and new wrinkles, I know because I no longer care about reading celeb rags like US and People, I don’t watch reality TV, I get queasy on roller coasters and for the first time in my life, I have to really try hard to lose weight. But on the positive side, I am nicer to myself and others, I care less about getting everyone’s approval, I accept where my life is, I focus on the positive and am able to let go of the negative (most of the time) more easily than before. I appreciate the insights and internal peace that getting older brings to me.

9. You’re never too old. I read an article this year about entrepreneurs who began new careers or businesses at older ages. Folks like Arianna Huffington, who started Huffington Post at the age of 54, and Sam Walton, who was 44 when he started Walmart. My mother went back to college in her late 40s (I had classes with her!) and my grandfather, who just turned 90 in November, continues to tell jokes, remember birthdays, walk around with no problems and generally be an amazing man. These examples and more inspired me to try some new things near the end of this year – I met with two book publishers, I opened my heart and faced my biggest fear to become a part of the RAINN speakers bureau, and I took on several new career challenges, some of which are not yet public. I may even grab a copy of Late-Blooming Entrepreneurs: Eight Principles for Starting a Business After Age 40, although since I’ve owned my first business for 15 years and counting, I don’t really consider myself a “late” bloomer – more of a “constant bloomer” because I always want to try new things. I’m hoping 2014 will be the year several of my new adventures come to fruition.

8. I still have a lot of work to do. I still have to work really hard to not let my problems overwhelm me into thinking everything is bad. I have to push myself to stand up to wrongful situations and negative people, and I have to learn to budget better. But that’s what life is – always improving and learning and moving forward, right?

7. Not everyone is capable of true love. You may not agree with me, but I feel like I finally understand the true definition of love. People are mostly inherently selfish. We want to do what we want to do, go where we want to go. Having a relationship or becoming a parent means compromise. And truly loving someone means that you put them first – that their needs always come before yours. Always. Some people simply are not capable of this. They may care for others, and act loving, but at the end of the day, they put themselves first and that is not love.

6. Being a parent is the most difficult job I’ve ever experienced. I love my boys! I do everything I can to make them feel loved, confident and important. It isn’t always easy because kids are selfish. They are self-centered. They want what they want, when they want it. It’s our job to teach them how to be responsible and loving human beings and to discover the joy of being good to others. But man, it is hard! Especially when they are ungrateful, or they get angry over silly things and call you “the meanest Mom in the world.” This happens. Usually it’s when they don’t get something they want – and although you know they don’t mean it, it still stings. And it also stings to watch them struggle through hard times – some of which are the natural rituals of growing up. You know they have to go through some of these things, and you can’t do it for them – and it’s hard to see them struggle and not be able to fix everything like you could when they were three. But it’s also the most rewarding and amazing job I’ve ever had. I pray every night for their protection and grace, and I thank God for the privilege of being their mother. I hope every parent sees it this way – and that they recognize just how blessed they are to be a Mom or a Dad.

5. You have more faith than you think you do. You might not consider yourself a religious person, but every day you are likely showing faith in one way or another by the choices you make. If you have been heart broken and choose to love again, or you keep driving when the gas tank is on “Empty,” or you borrow money promising to pay it back, or you start a company or take a new job. You don’t know how the story ends – you’re just taking a leap of faith that it will work out. I had a conversation with a family member recently about trust. He’s been hurt pretty badly in love, and he came to the conclusion that no one is trustworthy. It would be an easy train to jump on for most of us, but I have to believe that people are trustworthy most of the time (with some exceptions). We just make mistakes. All of us have made mistakes. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t trust again. I think we have to focus more on holding ourselves up when things go wrong, vs. avoiding ever being vulnerable. Vulnerability is a part of life – personal and professional. Even at work, you’re making yourself vulnerable if you offer a new idea, right? Just learn to accept that things aren’t perfect – but we can still have faith that in the end, things will somehow work out anyway.

4. Just ask. It’s amazing what can happen when you speak up and ask for what you want. Thank you to those who said “yes” this year – I’m pretty blown away by your kindness and support.

3. If you lie down with mongrel dogs, even for a short nap, you wake up with fleas — and they ride with you wherever you go. When I read this Chinese proverb in a recent article about negating toxic people from your life, I thought “Whew, easier said than done.” I’ve spent the last few years of my life ending a lot of relationships. It’s been hard, and at times very sad, but it’s vital to recognize when you’ve surrounded yourself with people who make you feel bad – and to step away from those people.

2. Let it go. Man, people are angry, huh? In the last week alone I’ve dealt with two incidents of road rage – and I don’t even commute every day, and it’s the holiday season! (And no, it’s not due to bad driving on my part – only one incident involved me at the wheel and was in dead stopped traffic.) Why are people so angry? Is someone pulling one car length ahead of you really worth blowing your top over? Is holding that grudge from five years ago doing anything to help you feel good? Like the adorable song in the movie Frozen says, just Let. It. Go. We’ve got one shot at this life thing, so spend your time trying to focus on the positive, and don’t sweat the small stuff. Remember you can’t control everything either, and when you let go a bit – it can be very freeing.

1. I am so blessed. 2013 certainly hasn’t been my favorite year. I’ve faced a lot of personal and professional challenges and heartaches. I watched, along with many of you, our beloved city of Boston become a place of terror, and had to come to grips with the fact that nowhere is safe from the evils of bad men. I’ve experienced a lot of loss. I have had to go back and fight battles that I had already won but which my foes would not drop. And yet, I know how blessed I am. I have two wonderful, funny, healthy sons who I’ve grown closer to as they grow up. I have a new puppy – in addition to my existing two pups – who is hilarious and sweet and reminds me every day that happiness can be found in the simple moments of life (like watching a puppy bounce all around your house). I am loved. And I am strong. I haven’t lost my faith and – naively or not – I believe 2014 holds great promise for renewal. I hope yours does, too.