Day 1, Leg 2, 2012-2013 Winter Motorcycle Adventure

Day 1 of this motorcycle adventure started January 17, and actually entailed trains, planes and automobiles and a “side trip” to Los Angeles to pop in for a quick visit with 103-year-old Uncle Walter. My sweetheart (SH) and I left my place in downtown Minneapolis shortly before 5 a.m. and walked quickly in 5 degree temps (probably below zero wind-chill) to the light rail station. The train took us to the Humphrey Terminal where we boarded the 7:55 a.m. Sun Country flight to LAX.

I used the flight time to finish some deliverables for a current communications consulting client and enjoyed the beautiful sunrise views from the airplane window. After an early arrival at LAX, we rented a car and headed to Redondo Beach where we had brunch at one of our favorite places – Redondo Beach Cafe. Who would expect a hockey-crazy diner in Redondo Beach CA?!

Then we headed to The Coffee Bean in Redondo Beach in our favorite neighborhood. They have a lot more seating and outlets for all our electronics than nearby Starbucks, where we often hang out – next to Trader Joe’s. After emailing my work in to the client and attending a conference call, we jumped into into the car to pick up Walter. We had a lovely afternoon with him, before heading back to the airport to catch our Delta flight to Phoenix, where the motorcycle part of the motorcycle adventure will begin. We dropped into bed at the Best Western where we have stayed a couple times before at about midnight.

It was a grueling, but rewarding, 20 hour day – work, family time, enjoying a beautiful, warm environment (mid-70s) and the anticipation of a great long weekend of fun on bikes in relatively warm weather in JANUARY! First time these Minnesotans will ride motorcycles in January! Hang with me over the weekend, and I’ll share our route and some of the planning that results in an affordable adventure. I am so grateful to have the work flexibility, fun partner and modest budget to do it!

Love, Tomboy Tam

Dear employer: it’s time for your performance review!

It’s a good time for me to make a list of the things I want to receive from my employer or client. I am developing new communications consulting clients and simultaneously exploring a few select “permanent” employment opportunities. Such a list will help my new manager or client and me evaluate whether we are a good fit for each other. Here is my first draft.

What I want to receive from my employer and manager

Reward me with generous, competitive compensation that reflect the type, level and complexity of the work I do and the value I add. Even if the economic environment has impacted your compensation curve, be creative and involve me in negotiation to arrive at a compensation structure that meets both our needs.

Support my career development. Give me increasingly higher visibility projects and more responsibility. Suggest “extra-curricular” activities inside or outside the company that will help me develop. Support my professional association involvement and education. Keep your eyes open for possible advancement opportunities for me elsewhere in the company. Give me formal and informal feedback frequently – no surprises at annual review time! Ask my internal and external customers for input on my performance. Offer me earned raises, promotions and titles before I ask for them.

Walk the talk of trust and integrity. The company’s vision and values establish high standards for ethical behavior, business practices and respect for team members. Company leaders and managers walk the company talk. Believe that I will represent you and our group with integrity. Allow me to work without micromanagement. Give me the credit I deserve for my work, even when I’m not in the room. Recognize me formally and informally for small and large accomplishments.

Offer and expect flexibility – trust me to manage my time and deliverables honestly. Don’t require rigid start and stop times or hours. Support me working from home or other remote location when the job can be accomplished successfully from there.

Respect my personal time. In other words, don’t send me email messages at night and on weekends, as it establishes a culture of never disconnecting from work. Or at least don’t expect me to answer your messages at those times. Support me in taking all the paid time off that I’ve earned. Manage our workload such that work weeks that are more than 40-45 hours are the exception, not the rule.

Nurture a friendly, healthy, FUN culture by caring about my needs, at work and to some extent, my personal life. Communicate as early and as much as you can about company and leadership strategies and changes. Make an effort to ask me how my kids are doing, how I spent my vacation and what sports teams I cheer for. Encourage me to take a lunch break, work out and eat well by setting the model for that behavior. Connect me with my teammates and partners within and outside our group. Lead a little bit of goofing off and laughter to relieve stress, reset perspectives and improve productivity.

In my past experience, interview time or evaluation time is primarily about my skills, experience, scope of responsibilities and how well I performed them. Through my personal growth, I’ve learned that to be a truly outstanding employee, I have to be a happy one. And to be happy, I need my career to support my lifestyle, not the opposite.

  • What is (or will be) on your list of what you want to receive from your employer?
  • Can you see yourself talking to your manager or an interviewer about your list? Why or why not?
  • Do you think I’m crazy to have such a list, when so many people are still desperate for a job – any job? 

Thanks for your feedback!

Love, Tomboy Tam

Living to eat doesn’t have to be a bad thing

Food is not one of my defined categories for this blog. The reality is, I love food so much, that I consider it inherent in all aspects of life:

Relationships – I love to cook for my loved ones.

Personal growth – Food has been a consistent source of comfort through all stages of my growth. And I’ve consistently improved my choices throughout that same time!

Health & wellness – I’ve enjoyed evolving my diet to satisfy my foodie fetishes, while honoring my commitment to being healthy and fit, and living a long life.

Spirituality – Food feeds my soul, as well as my body. I have glimpsed heaven while enjoying sublime flavors.

Career – What beloved manager has not motivated teamwork and employee engagement on the backs of pizza lunches and Friday bagels? Even my food offerings at work evolved through my personal growth to fruit and salad options.

Lifestyle – Adventure, exploration, friends and fun: all relevant to cooking, dining out and trying new foods and restaurants.

Today I offer one of my recent favorite recipes – Tomboy Tam’s un-omelet (not really an omelet because I throw most of it in the pan together instead of folding the contents into the embrace of cooked eggs – fussy, precise cooking is not a tomboy trait!):

Serves 1, about 250 calories per serving, 14 grams of fat and 20 grams of protein

Ingredients (I use organic ingredients whenever possible):

  • 1 t oil (go with a healthy one – olive, avocado, etc) or spray oil
  • 2 T chopped onion
  • 2 T chopped green and/or red pepper
  • ½ C chopped mushrooms
  • ¾ C chopped baby spinach (I just cut it up a bit with a scissors when I add it to the pan)
  • ½ of a medium-sized tomato, chopped
  • 1/8 C feta cheese crumbles (as I am fond of saying, “feta makes everything betta!”)
  • 1/4 of an avocado, sliced
  • 1 whole egg and 2 egg whites
  • Salt and pepper to taste

I added the tomatoes after cooking in this photo, which is an easy alternative to adding them to the pan to cook with the eggs.

Whisk the eggs with the salt and pepper. Put oil into a small non-stick pan and heat over medium burner. Add onions and peppers and stir-fry a minute or less before adding mushrooms. After about another minute of stir-frying, add the chopped spinach and tomatoes. Stir for a few seconds and then add the eggs. Reduce heat to low and cover pan. Check after three to five minutes for doneness. When the eggs are set and it’s a little puffy, it’s done. Don’t overcook. Remove from pan and put on plate. Add the feta cheese and avocado and fold over – or not. Eat and enjoy!

I’ve added slightly blanched asparagus cut into 1-inch pieces or other veggies, depending on what I have on hand. You can add or replace the avocado with some chopped deli ham or a slice of fried, crumbled bacon without completely ruining the health value. Obviously, adjust the ingredients as needed for any special needs, such as replacing the one whole egg with another egg white are watching your cholesterol. Personally, I like the veggies tender-crisp so I keep the sautéing prior to adding the eggs to a minimum.

I enjoyed this as a real omelet with a dear friend for brunch at Wilde Roast on St. Anthony Main in Minneapolis recently and loved it so much I recreated it at home and have been eating it a couple times a week ever since. And by the way, Wilde Roast has gluten free bread! I keep fresh chopped onion and peppers in the frig so it’s quick and easy to prepare.

  • What are your go-to healthy favorites? 
  • What is your relationship with food?

Thanks for sharing!

Love, Tomboy Tam

Conquering disappointment with gratitude

The celebration dinner I had in mind for last night became a consolation dinner. After the four very positive and progressively deep interviews he had, my dinner companion got the news late yesterday that the company offered the position to another candidate. Ouch!

The disappointment, back-story and experience of this particular candidate is familiar to many thousands of talented, deserving people across the country every day. I doubt the 12.1 million unemployed counted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics even includes those who graduated from college during the tempest of the most depressed and depressing economic times this country has experienced in generations – or possibly ever! I have personally experienced the full spectrum of emotions related to “displacement” while at or near the pinnacle of my corporate career and a comfortable lifestyle – not just once, but twice during the past few years.

So what is there to be grateful about, given all that bad news?

What if instead of accepting the mindset of being unemployed, I embraced the excitement and possibilities of being an entrepreneur, parent, grandparent, and volunteer? What if I replaced the term “career networking” in my vocabulary with the mindset of reconnecting with old friends and acquaintances and making new ones? Instead of channeling my energy on feeling angry, frustrated or depressed, I laser focused on gratitude, trust and attracting opportunities?

If you have just finished shopping for your dinner at the local food shelf, and my views sound impossibly, insultingly and incredibly naïve, I apologize. And I will dare to say that these words are even more relevant to you.

Although I’ve never suffered the deep bruises of rock bottom hope- and homelessness that some have, I have had significant economic and emotional low points in my lifetime. I’ve been the beneficiary of public assistance and have rooted for coins in jackets and sofas to meet basic needs. I’ve mourned the untimely and unfair loss of jobs and loved ones. I’ve struggled at times to define who I am and what path I am meant to walk. And today, I am counted among the 12.1 million unemployed.

And yet, throughout my life and today I believe – actually expect – that there are always better days ahead, where my own efforts, ideas and skills intersect with my faith that the Universe will deliver everything I need. Not always when and how I expect or prefer (how about Friday, via UPS, with a pink bow!), but always in different and sometimes better ways and times than I could even imagine. I’ll share some examples with you in the coming days.

I’m keeping a daily list of my successes and things I’m grateful for. I review that list when I need encouragement and reminders. I also recommend watching Louie Schwartzberg’s Happiness Revealed project video – maybe daily for a while!

  • What are you grateful for?
  • What are your techniques for conquering disappointment with gratitude?

Thank you for your feedback!

Love, Tomboy Tam

Over 50, unemployed, happy and powerful!

I did an easy 40 minutes on the elliptical today, one of four or five workouts I’ll do this week. No big deal, you say? In fact, for me it was a big deal because it wasn’t! Let me explain.

Until I turned 50, I never worked out regularly. I’d been active periodically throughout my life – softball, walking, bowling, dancing, golfing and so on. I was least active in my 30s while I was getting my bachelor’s degree while mothering my four kids and working part time. I didn’t work out regularly in my 40s either, while I was investing a lot of time at work and still had two kids at home.

Why did I start working out at age 50? That was a magical turning point for me in many ways. I realized I was at about the halfway point in my life, and I was ready to start becoming me.

In my late 40s, I found myself divorced, my nest empty of children, and I was working stressful hours through a major acquisition. My parents were gone at the far-too-young ages of 60 and 69. I wasn’t feeling great, physically. Mentally and emotionally, I was drained. I had spent my life being a daughter, sister, wife, mother and employee, and generally living in reaction to the events of my life.  I had no idea who I was or wanted to be, now that it was just me. And there were days when I didn’t have the energy or motivation to figure it out.

There were only two directions to go from that point, and I chose UP. I took on the work of finding and investing in me. I tapped my one dear friend for frequent reality checks. I read books, journalled, went to workshops, started going to church again, joined social groups, and explored people, places, food and activities.

I started working out, and remember that my first time on the elliptical I couldn’t finish 10 minutes. I spent fewer – but higher quality – hours at work and made more friends. I discovered I had Celiac Disease and proceeded to educate myself and change my diet. My mental and emotional strength were enhanced by my growing physical strength; together they gave me a greater sense of control over my own happiness.

Discovering and developing me, Tomboy Tam, over the past several years has been the most rewarding challenge of my life. Today, I’m grateful for those challenges because they helped me become a strong, happy, healthy woman. The year of my 50th birthday was a little like being reborn.

Earlier this year, my job was eliminated for the second and final time, as a result of that major acquisition at work. So I am currently unemployed, which you may have read can be tough to recover from at my age.  But just like 40 minutes on the elliptical, it’s not as big a deal as it would have been five years ago. Because shortly before my 50th birthday, I started preparing my mind and body to be happy and powerful, no matter what events happen outside of my control.

I’ve learned that I can attract wonderful people, opportunities and blessings into my life simply by knowing and believing in myself, investing in my physical and mental health, and living my best life deliberately and with gratitude every single day. I’m letting good things happen. I’ve taken my power back.

I share my story with you today on the chance that you may find some inspiration for starting or continuing to live your best life beginning today and that you may share some feedback that will inspire all of us.

  • Do you have a good sense of your own personal identity? If yes, have you always had it, or did you have to work on getting it? 
  • Did you have any major epiphanies or life changes related to “milestone” birthdays?
  • What has helped you triumph over some of the greatest challenges in your life?
  • Can you share any examples of how you have attracted people, opportunities and blessings?
  • What have you done to create your best life today ?

Love, Tomboy Tam

Clever, creative, fun – I want that job description!

I get a lot of email messages – likely, you can relate. Today, one of them had a headline that got me to open the “Well + Good” wellness newsletter out of New York City, and boy-oh-tomboy did it inspire me! (I subscribed because my friend and fitness guru Dawn Doll, over at Revolution Cycle + Fitness, kept quoting it!)

The headline “‘50 Shades of Kale’ is bound to excite your taste buds,” linked to an article about a new cookbook by that title. You may recognize the not-so-veiled reference to a controversial book that caused quite a media stir earlier this year. (If you missed it and want to get caught up on the brouhaha, type “50 Shades” into your browser search field. Erase the history before the kids get back on the computer!)

The article was entertaining, provocative, educational and effective! I can’t WAIT to buy the cookbook and “get some healthy kale action” myself!

OK, kale action aside, I was inspired by the creative, clever and fun voice of the article and the cookbook. I allowed my own creativity to wither quite a bit at a job where I wrote and edited many corporate communications for many years, primarily in a conservative, factual style that was appropriate for that industry and company. I appreciated the many benefits and developed many useful skills there, for which I’m grateful.

At the same time, that environment didn’t nurture my creativity and I didn’t feed that need elsewhere. When that job ended earlier this year, I started interacting with a variety of people, exploring business opportunities and writing different types of communications — it was like a brown wool blanket was removed from my head and the creative juices started trickling between the synapses in my brain again! I literally feel younger, lighter and more energetic since I started doing work that I consider fun.

The Kale article and book were great reminders of priorities for the next stages of my career: work with people, products and companies that fill my creative tank, support the tomboy in me, inspire my passion and enable abundant fun. And if I hit a creative dry spell in one area of my work, find another source from which to water it – stat!

  • What feeds your soul at work? Or what in your soul needs feeding from your career?
  • If your current work suddenly ended, or thinking back to a point in your career history, would you look for new work just like it or something very different? In what ways would it be different?
  • I’ve always heard “Find a job doing what you love and you’ll never ‘work’ again.” What do you love, and have you ever had a job that didn’t feel like work?
  • If you’re not feeling the love at work, what’s holding you back from a change?
  • If you love your work, what’s your secret formula for loving it?

Let’s go get some kale!

Tomboy Tam