Is there an app for crazy, stupid busy?

to do listTo say life has been in session this past year would be an understatement. I’m crazy, stupid busy everywhere. I can’t seem to get to what I want to get to. My mind is constantly swimming with what I need to do next … trying to create the pathway to get done, well, everything.

Nothing has fallen through the cracks, although I have had to let things get perilously close before I had the time to yank it back to get it done.

It’s not organizational. It’s not that I’m seeking “work life balance.” It’s just that my life is very full, and those areas of my life of importance are busy. Work. My relationship with the Sports Dude. My kids. My spiritual life. My friends. My extended family. My professional development.

It’s not that I want to do it all. It’s that I want to be present and active in each of these areas because they are each important to me.

To sit down and write this post means the sacrifice of something equally important: Today it’s my morning meditation and yoga.

I wrote a post many years ago about managing my time, including taking a Sharpie to my calendar, and I have done that and continue to do all of those things. I have taken things off my plate, removed myself from what is not necessary. I have shut down the chatter so it does not distract me, and I filter my intake so I get the most important information. Yet I am still crazy, stupid busy.

More adjustments need to be made. I am not as engaged where I want to be engaged, and the things that will get crossed out in this round will be things that are important to me, to make room for other things that are just slightly more important right now. Continue reading

A couple of my heros have passed away


My favorite picture of Chris Milligan. Lots of joy to remember and cherish. circa 2006

This year has gotten off to a horrible start. First David Bowie. Then Glenn Frye. And now Christine Milligan and Richards Barger

Christine Milligan was my mother-in-law. She passed away on Sunday from complications of living a very grand life. She would have been 96 in a couple weeks, and she leaves behind a family who loved and adored her.

Chris was a true lady. A gritty kind of southern belle who didn’t fit into anybody’s box or stereotype. She shocked her Alabama community by going off to college to Washington, D.C. rather than going to one of the local colleges in Tennessee or Alabama to earn her MRS.

When the war broke out, she went to work for the government. She eventually married a returning soldier, who became a doctor, and settled in Newport Beach, CA. In her late 30s and early 40s she finally had her kids. Chris was the best. She opened her beach house to not only me and my kids, when we would invade her quiet sanctity for many a weekend, but she opened her home to my family, and my sister’s family, and their friends. She was a wonderful and gracious woman, and one of the greatest honors I have is to say I was able to make her a grandmother.


Dick Barger, founding partner, Barger & Wolen

The other loss this week was Richards Barger. He was the founding partner of Barger & Wolen (now a part of Hinshaw & Culbertson), one of the best law firms I have ever had the pleasure of working in. Mr. Barger was an icon in the insurance regulatory community. Every conference I attended, every event our firm sponsored, the first question everyone had was, “Is Mr. Barger here?” He had such reverence and respect for the community in which he served. Young or old, everyone knew, adored and respected Mr. Barger. Continue reading

The spirit and energy that connects us all

Photo credit Debbie Marcinkowski

Vic in Serta. Photo credit Debbie Marcinkowski

My morning meditation was overtaken today by thoughts of my friend Vic Anderson. Vic has been very ill for a while, but the end is near and I do believe that his energy is increasing as he prepares to say goodbye. And while I am not “that” kind of crunchy, granola kind of gal, I do believe that we are all connected by an energy, and that energy is overwhelming me today.

What I am also very sensitive to are the other pockets of energy where I am connected to others.

Over on the #LMA15 threads I am a member of I am seeing that same spirit and energy connecting us in conversations and experiences. The chatter, which is just an indication of our attachment to one another, continues.

A part of me wanted to exit those threads this morning. I initially saw them as an interruption, as noise, when it was really energy. In the true spirit of Vic, who would never kill a fly, and was known to release crickets into neighborhoods, who am I to remove myself from a circle of energy?

My dear friend Nanea Reeves, wife to Vic, wrote a poignant post this morning, Work/Life Balance and What That Means When Things Fall Apart. I’ve known Nanea and Vic since Nanea was a struggling actress and artist, and Vic was the big cheese on the movie sets in charge of transportation.

I was there when they bought their home that they are now remodeling. And Nanea lead the revolt of my bridesmaids when I chose a blue velvet dress for them to wear, and Nanea was having none of it.

Nanea is now a tech exec, and Vic formed a charity to change the world one kitchen, orphanage, and school at a time.

For the past month or two there have been chants around the world for Vic. When you are in the middle of an energy like that, and truly present, it is impossible to not see how the universe brings us together.

A partner just stopped me in the hall and mentioned I looked sad. I explained that my friend is going to die very soon. He offered to tell me a joke, so we walked into his office. The joke did not lift my spirits, but the furniture and art did. They were all Chinese, which ties back to Vic’s love and passion for Tibet.

Today, there are no coincidences.

Please join me, and just take a moment to offer Vic up in light and love; and enter this circle of energy with us.

A few thoughts on turning 50

As I prepare to turn 50 (yeah, 50) this weekend, I can’t help but reflect. Who wouldn’t.

I’m thinking back to the panic I felt when I was turning 24 (yeah, 24). It was going to be non-stop from that day forward to 25, and 25 was a quarter of a century, and halfway to 50.

And here I am. 50.

I am in a great place. I thought I’d be panicked, and I have had my moments throughout the year, but I’m good. I might go so far as to say, “50 is looking pretty sweet.”

Reflecting, my 20s were all about trying to figure out my path; what did I want to be when I grew up? I was a kid trying to be an adult. I wore the right shoes and the right clothes. I wore my hair up and made sure the outsides looked the part of the role I was playing (administrative assistant, grassroots organizer, lobbyist). What I didn’t understand was why the adults (those over 40) still thought of me as a kid.

My 30s were all about trying to fill the adult shoes around me — wife, mother, event planner, legal marketer. I was “in my 30s,” respect me. And the people around me were starting to. However, my insides were still so insecure. The clothes fit, but they were not comfortable. Impostor syndrome was in full force.

My 40s were where I found my true and authentic self. I shed the layers that no longer had meaning, no longer fit, no longer felt comfortable. The death of my college boyfriend really propelled me forward. Life was too short, and it was starting to speed up. If this is all there was, it wasn’t enough, and the only way it was going to change was by me changing it.

And here I am, less than a week away from 50.

My life is not perfect, but my insides are at peace. The impostor syndrome that was still lurking around until a few years ago has completely left me. I feel 100% at peace in my skin, and in my life. I no longer “think” something is true, I “know” it to be true. I also know how to know something without being arrogant or smug about it.

I was looking for a graphic for this post and everything I found about turning 50 is about trying to feel and look like you did in your 20s or 30s, or a joke about getting old.

I don’t want to feel like I did in my 20s or 30s, and I am fine with how I look. And turning 50 to me is not about the jokes of getting old (although my dad, I’m sure, did get me a subscription to AARP), but about the reflection of where I am, how I got here, what I can share and pass along, and where I get to go today.

If nothing else, my experience has taught me that I am just one part of a greater whole. How I experience that today is different, not better, than it was in my 20s, 30s, and 40s.

So here I am.

The most depressing day of the year is today

The most depressing day of the year is today. How’s that for a happy Monday, back to work, after the holidays thought?

I have to admit, there was a part of me feeling a bit of the Monday blues coming on over the weekend.

So I did a quick self-examination.

Who was I getting dressed for work today? Was it the worker amongst workers I have trained to be? Or the self-absorbed, self-important asshole I can revert to with lack of sleep?

I asked myself a few questions to get a reality check:

  • Am I bringing my own agenda to the job? Or am I bringing an attitude of service?
  • Do I believe and convey that my answer is the only right answer? Or am I open and willing to listen to other ideas? Or fears?
  • Do I have an attitude of Holier Than Thou? Or am I embracing and open to all ideas?
  • Do I have a sincere desire to be helpful? Or do I bring an attitude of self-importance?
  • Am I here only for a pay check? Or do I have a sincere desire to be here?
  • Am I motivated by self or service? Or am I motivated by what “you” think about me?
  • Where is my ego in all of this? Did I check it at the door? Or am I using it as a shield?
  • Am I talking at or with you? Am I present in our conversations? Are we collaborating? Or am I, once again, leading with my ego?

When I start to look at who got on the train today, and asked myself these questions, I was quickly able to see why I was the problem on this most depressing day of the year.

By the time my train reached its destination, a different Heather disembarked. This is the only Blue Monday I want to hear about today:

You had me at “Your blog sucks really bad”

Oh, you know how I feel about unsolicited and pitches from vendors I’ve never heard of before getting their call/email.

I just have to say, Philip Lew, whoever the hell you are, you got me with your prose.

I want you to personally know that I couldn’t delete or mark-as-spam your e-mail, as it moved me beyond words. So I’ll just share it with my readers: Team,

I thought you might like to know some reasons why you are not getting enough Social Media and Organic search engine traffic for

1. Your website is not ranking top in Google organic searches for many competitive keyword phrases.

2. Your company is not doing well in most of the Social Media Websites.

3. Your site is not user friendly on mobile devices.

There are many additional improvements that could be made to your website, and if you would like to learn about them, and are curious to know what our working together would involve, then I would be glad to provide you with a detailed analysis in the form of a WEBSITE AUDIT REPORT for FREE.

Our clients consistently tell us that their customers find them because they are at the top of the Google search rankings. Being at the top left of Google (#1- #3 organic positions) is the best thing you can do for your company’s website traffic and online reputation. You will be happy to know that, my team is willing to guarantee you 1st page Google ranking for most of your targeted keyword phrases in our six month ongoing campaign.

Sound interesting? Feel free to email us or alternatively you can provide me with your phone number and the best time to call you. I am also available to meet you in person and present you this website audit report.
Best Regards,

Philip Lew

Marketing Consultant

PS I: I am not spamming. I have studied your website and believe I can help with your business promotion. If you still want us to not contact you, you can ignore this email or ask to remove and I will not contact again.

PS II: I found your site using Google search and after having a look over your website I recommend you to implement future technologies such as HTML5 and Responsive Design to make your site more accessible in mobile phone, tablets, desktop etc.

I get these emails with every post I make, so I know they come from spam-bots (no need to educate me on this one), but I am still taken aback by the tactic, and does this actually work?

Your blog sucks, so hire me to fix it. Hmmmmm. Is that like telling me I look fat in this dress, so you can work with me as a personal shopper?

At least Cassie Griggs tried to butter me up before I flagged her/it as spam:

I have read so many articles or reviews on the topic of the blogger lovers however this piece of writing is actually a nice paragraph, keep it up.

The Beach Body people don’t call me fat … they just send me pictures of people who look better than me in a bathing suit.

Come on, Philip. At least offer a girl a plaque.

If you like me, really, really like me, you’ll nominate me

You like me. You really, really like me!

Oh, fine, I’ll play the “please nominate and vote for me” game.

The ABA Journal is working on their annual Blawgs 100 list.

Well, faithful readers, followers, friends and my mom, I’d appreciate it if you’d take a few moments and nominate The Legal Watercooler for inclusion in this year’s compilation.

It’s super easy. Just visit the Blawg 100 Amici nomination page and fill in a couple boxes. Due date is August 9.

Not so humbly yours, Heather

What’s the etiquette rule on returning unsolicited calls and emails?

I was out of the office sick on Friday (yes, I was legitimately sick, on a Friday before a 3-day weekend, thank you very much), and am slowly going through my 100+ emails.

The amount of spam is out of control. Usually I just “block” the sender and move on.

But I am noticing a new trend in here.

It’s the personal requests, that are turning into guilt, that turn into anger messages painting me as rude for not responding.

Some of these requests are so bold that they are now attaching meeting requests to drop onto my Outlook calendar.

Look, I didn’t ask you to email me. I didn’t ask for information about your product or service. And, frankly, if I responded to the emails, I think a tribble cascade would begin, so I delete. I mark as spam. I move on.

I just know if I were to reply “no thanks,” they will take that as a permission to start emailing me more. Or, worse yet, calling me and leaving messages.

So here’s my dilemma.

Sometimes I actually know these companies so I can’t block them.

Some of them are well-known service and product vendors in my industry. It might even be a product I am interested in for down the road, but I can’t let on, or the tribble cascade beings and the next thing you know it is out of hand.

I don’t think the onus should be on me to have to return an unsolicited call or email. If I don’t reply, can’t you take that as a “she’s not interested” and move on?

And don’t make me feel bad for not giving you 15 minutes of my time. Because it will never be 15 minutes. You and I both know it.

I’m not looking for an answer here. I’m just venting and justifying my deleting and blocking so many emails today.


Shabbat Shalom. I think I’m going to go dark.

I had a day yesterday like no other.

It began with the snake’s lunch getting loose (found later that day, by the Sports Dude, in the nanny’s lunch … ick factor 100 on a scale of 1 to 10).

Business meeting.

Major family drama. Which, having four siblings meant long calls with my mom, older sister, younger sister, brother, former brother-in-law, back to my mom, quick one with younger sister, long one with older sister, and closing the night off with my brother. Lucky for me, baby sister just had a baby, so one less phone call. Oh, crap. I just realized no one called our dad.

Then my daughter opened up about all the drama that’s been going on with her circle of friends. I so hate 7th grade.

One of my Girl Scout families popped by to pick up some more cookies. Then panic sets in as I realized, at 10:00 pm, I had yet to order all the cookies for our booths this weekend.

Oh, and work in between all of this.

Taking that all into consideration, one of the first articles to hit my stream this morning was Tech’s Best Feature: The Off Switch.

It’s Friday evening. The smells of rosemary chicken and freshly-baked challah fill the house. My daughters, 3 and 9, sigh as I gently detach the iPads from their laps. One by one, our screens are powered down. My husband, Ken, is usually the last holdout, in his office, madly scrambling to send out just one last email before the sun sets. Then he unplugs too. We light the candles, and sit down to a sumptuous meal.

I’m prepared. I’ve printed out the next day’s schedule, along with maps and phone numbers that live on my cell phone. Most people in our lives know they will not be able to text, tweet, email, Facebook, chat, or Skype with us for 24 hours. If they want to reach us, they call our landline. Or they come over.

And so it has gone, every week for three years. Our “tech Shabbat” lasts from sunset on Friday until sunset on Saturday.

I thought it was a God shot, until I realized that today is National Day of Unplugging. So it’s a coincidence. Yet I don’t believe in coincidences. DEFINITELY a God shot.

I have fear around unplugging. I want to blame it on the fact that I would have to unplug not only myself, but a teenaged girl, her tweener sister, and the Sports Dude. Too many moving parts. What if there’s an emergency? (oh, yeah, I have a landline, too.)

Yikes. What an order. Can I go through with it?

It’s not like I haven’t done it before.

Both the Sports Dude and I unplugged during our honeymoon, and our world did not come to a crashing end. I even blogged (irony) about it here: I think the Hippies were on to something:

The Sports Dude and I just returned from our honeymoon to New Orleans where we departed for a four-night cruise to Cozumel, Mexico.

The Sports Dude and I headed off to Mexico via Carnival

As we made our way down the Mississippi we knew we’d lose 3G reception at some point, so we snapped some pictures and got them posted to Facebook before we went dark.

We had no cell phone, 3G or WiFi for three entire days, as in 72+ hours.

For three days my iPhone 4, which is usually in my hand or on my person somewhere where I can easily hear/feel the phone ringing, sat in the safe in our stateroom.

For three entire days I lounged around the pool with my fully loaded Nook enjoying my summer time reading. I blew through The Lincoln Lawyer, and made headway through New York: The Novel (an 800+ page volume that would normally NEVER make it onto my poolside reading list. I love my Nook).

We unplugged for four days, and they were a blissful four days. Leaving my phone behind, allowed me to be present.

I gotta do this. I need to recapture that energy. I HAVE to recharge.

And, how lucky for me, I will not be alone. I don’t know if I’ll be able to get my family to participate, but I don’t need their permission to turn it all off for 24 hours.

But I don’t want this to be about the next 24 hours. I want it to be about reclaiming a part of my life.

unplug HMM

I’ll let you know how it goes. Yikes. I can do this!


A word to the wise: Social Media and Politics

Words count. Words have meaning. Words on Facebook, Twitter and in the comments section of online publiations are searchable, fully visible, and can define you.

My friend Jayne Navarre at the Virtual Marketing Officer recently wrote this post, Facebook and Politics: Do they mix? Yes, no, maybe? taking on politics on our personal social media accounts.

For the record, I’m in the “maybe” column, as you can see from my comments in Jayne’s post.

As far as I am concerned, it’s not that you are doing it, it’s about how you do it. And here’s why (from Jayne’s post above):

Case on point. I had an opportunity yesterday to refer a professional and I had someone in mind. But, unexpectedly I found a Facebook post from that individual just before I made the call. It was a link to an inciting article, filled with negativity, along side his personal, polarizing comments. I immediately crossed this person off the list. I decided this referral would be wrong for my client—on several levels.

Will it make or break their bottom line, probably not. Still, it made me shiver a bit to realize thata single Facebook post—which is certainly within anyone’s right to free speech—impacted a business opportunity so decisively.

For the most part, people refer business and hire people they know, like and trust. Screw with one of those three and the stream of business you count on to pay your bills and feed your family might start slowing down and you will never know why.

I’m not saying we should never talk about politics. I’m a political junkie, and I enjoy a very thoughtful debate and discussion.

In fact, the sports dude and I had dinner with my sister and her boyfriend last night. It was a libertarian, an independent, and two progressive liberals chatting away. No voices were raised. No one was disrespected. We definitely did not agree on everything discussed. We avoided some topics entirely and on purpose.

We were most definitely spirited and passionate. And that’s the way it should be.

Now you take that “conversation” online, when you are alone, and at your computer, and all sense of decorum seems to get tossed overboard.

You share a meme or a video from a truly biased (right, left or “neutral” until you read the supporters) organization. You comment on that post what you really think. You tweet out a 100 character slam with a couple hashtags.

When you do that, no matter what you share, roughly 50% of the population is not going to agree with you. Add to that mix this truth: You, for the most part, have no idea which of your clients, referral sources, and influencers are in which 50%.

Sitting home alone, you don’t get to see the eye brows raising, the hiding of your posts, the unliking or unfriending of you all together.

A colleague called me last week to brainstorm on a speaker for a program he wanted to host for his firm. Almost in unison we agreed, “Well, you know so-and-so cannot be considered,” based on some online comments and actions.

The person in question just lost the ability to speak to their target audience, and they have NO idea that they were removed from consideration, from a prime opportunity, because of how they conduct themselves online.

I don’t care how locked down you think your Facebook page is, it really isn’t. And I don’t care if you think all of your friends agree with you, because they don’t.

Make no mistake, these things can happen IRL (in real life) as well:

You’re having a private conversation at lunch, and the new general counsel of that company you’re about to meet with later in the day is sitting at the table next to you. He recognizes the person you are talking to, they are acquaintances, which is how his attention made his way to your table and conversation. He is overhearing what you are saying, and he doesn’t like it. You just got bumped off the “go-to” list, and you’ll never understand why.

That’s what sharing an inflammatory meme, video, or article can do. It can show up in someone’s thread because when you share open content, others can see it as well, and can make judgments about you from that. This is often referred to as “listening with your eyes.”

I fully understand that when I comment on CNN’s Reliable Sources Facebook page (my favorite Sunday morning talk show, which I watch with my Twitter Politics List and political hashtags open on my Tweetdeck), everyone can see that, even though my personal Facebook page is closed.

When I share that meme from George Takei, everyone is privy to the fact that I did that.

When I Tweet, and add a hashtag, that is now part of a public conversation and is exposing my words to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people I don’t know.

Any reporter or publication can pick that up and quote me without me knowing about it, until the Google Alert I have set on my name pops up in my reader.

I’m not counseling you to not share or comment on politics, but to be aware of what you are sharing. When you are on a social network, liken it to an IRL open mike, or replying all to everyone at the office when you think you’re not.

Great advice today on CNN’s Reliable Sources from Roll Call’s Associate Politics Editor David Drucker. His comments were in response to the firing of Yahoo! News Washington Bureau Chief, David Chalian, and how reporters need to monitor themselves:

I don’t know how many times per week, I write up an e-mail with a snarky joke to somebody, or a tweet that’s snarky or sarcastic, and then I delete it. Because you have to be careful how your words are going to be interpreted and represented.

Before you hit “post” or “send,” take a look at that snarky e-mail, tweet, post or comment, think about it, and then hit the delete button.

No matter what we do, be it lawyer, legal marketing, consultant, chief, we are representing a brand: be it our firm’s brand, or our personal brand.

It is up to you to manage it.

So, my counsel: Don’t ignore the elections. For the next 60+ days it will be the news around the water cooler. You need to be aware and informed, even if you are not a political junky like me.

However, be respectful of all political opinions. Use judgment. Be observant of the people NOT chiming in on the conversation (those are the people who do not agree with you).

Treat online commentary the same as you would in-person converations. And, remember, you never, ever, ever know who is listening with their eyes.

At the end of the day it always comes back to who do you “know, like, and trust.” We don’t all have to agree politically, but we need to be respectful of differing opinions, as we all have to interact and work together.

Now, go out there and vote early, and vote often.