Every Monday Matters – Part Deux

The kids have been celebrating Every Monday Matters for several weeks now. We’ve planted bulbs in flower pots to welcome new neighbors; baked brownies for some friends; wrote and decorated appreciation cards to people this month. I know. We’re the best boy scouts ever!

Truthfully, we’re going a little stir crazy with Seattle’s long, dark tea-time of the soul, aka the Endless Winter of 2009. I’m also up for any excuse not to go out in the backyard with the pooper scooper. Come to think of it, my neighbors might possibly be more delighted with my diligence in that area than with our gifts of flowers.

Still, we are persevering. Tonight, we made St. Patrick’s Day buckets and took them to a nearby retirement home to hand out. Lest this sound simple, I assure you, it was not. While trying to decide what to put in the green buckets, I was recalling the church group of my youth and the effort we took to make beeswax candles for the elderly at Christmas.

We sang carols at a local retirement home and handled out our sweet, homemade candles. The next year we were informed that we could visit and sing again, but our well-intentioned gifts had nearly burned down the retirement facility when residents lit them and fell asleep. Incredibly, our church leader had us make candles anyway…just minus the wicks. It must have been so meaningful for those dear folks to receive a glob of wax that year…

I swung by Target after work looking for age-appropriate gifts. I saw denture cleaning kits. Bathtub rail grips. K-Y Jelly. Nothing seemed quite right. Except, perhaps, the K-Y Jelly. (My mother used to work part-time as a medical records consultant for several convalescent homes and observed that many of them resembled Peyton Places with geezers claiming senility for being in the wrong beds.) But I didn’t want to explain K-Y Jelly to my kids.

We ended up assembling buckets with vaseline lip balm, travel packets of tissue, hand and body lotion, and scented shower gels. Also chocolate kisses. We salvaged a few that Katie and Whistler hadn’t yet eaten during assembly. The kids labored over cards. Paige and Katie made hearts and flowers and stamped balloons on colored construction paper. Ryan decided to draw street signs that read: “Keep Out.” And, “No Trespassing.” Ominous cards, but what a GREAT speller!

At the retirement home, we explained what we wanted to do at the front desk. We didn’t have enough buckets for the whole place, so we asked who might most need a visitor or a gift to cheer them up. The staff had a spirited debate over who deserved a gift. Who needed someone. Who was too gruff to even merit a visit from small children. Then they had to discuss who was diabetic. Who had a roommate which required both residents to receive our St. Paddy’s Day treats. It was a delivery deliberation process worthy of a government Special Ops team.

Finally we were armed with a list of room numbers to visit, and we were off. Katie was beaming. Ryan was shy. Paige was winsome. Megan was observant as we handed out our buckets to ensure that we didn’t give lilac-scented bath gel to the gentlemen racing their electronic carts through the hallway.

Back in our car, we talked a bit about growing old. And maybe lonely. And maybe outliving your children or friends or spouses. Ryan wondered over how weathered and worn one man’s feet looked peeking out of the bed covers. Paige promised that she’d come and visit me when I get old one day—even if it smelled where I lived. That’s a nice promise.

It’s just that eventually you reach the point in the journey when your feet are weary and tired and where every day possibly blends into the next even as there are fewer days left to look forward to. I’m glad that not only does every Monday matter, but the days in between are rich with life’s moments too. Gotta make ’em count while you can…

Every Monday Matters

I am so not a morning person. But when Seattle Pacific University invited me last spring to their annual business breakfast to hear Carly Fiorina speak, it was enticing enough to make the sacrifice.

I set my alarm for 5:30 a.m. and drove into Seattle to eat a fruit compote and listen to the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard. I am sometimes suspicious of hype and fame, and had certainly read a bit about the controversial Carly—consistently Fortune’s #1 most powerful business woman in America.

Carly exceeded my expectations. She was articulate, intelligent, intuitive, and insightful. She spoke about the humiliation of being ousted from HP; she talked about staying relevant in the business world; she discussed her current efforts with micro loans to women in the developing world. But it was her discussion of the differences between managers and leaders that intrigued me.

Managers, Carly said, are those who keep things going in the business world. They ensure that teams meet their targets; policies are followed; products are created to meet consumer demands. Leaders, however, have different roles. They focus on leading indicators rather than lagging indicators—trends and new directions instead of last quarter’s financials.

Under Carly’s definition, leaders should anticipate the future, and prepare and shape the workforce to be ready to handle the changes and challenges on the horizon. (Were the leaders at Polaroid considering the shift from film to digital photography?)

Her presentation certainly made me think about my role as a manager and a leader at work, but it also made me think about my role as a manager and a leader at home. My household needs a manager: someone who pays the bills, makes the beds, prepares the meals and essentially keeps things running like a well-oiled machine. But frankly, if I’m just handling “manager” duties in my home, I could probably hire competent help to handle most of these chores. My children need more than Mom-the-Manager. They need a Mom who thinks like a leader—a parent who looks into the distance and ensures that day-to-day moments are informing their character, shaping their values, and preparing them for the future.

As a mom, I tend to over-focus on management and less on leadership. On any given day, when I’m not working outside the home, I spend the bulk of my energies on chores and preserving order. I like to rationalize that organization—a place for everything and everything in its place—allows me to be super spontaneous with the kids. Wanna go sledding? I know exactly which labeled storage bin contains mittens, hats, and snow clothes. Wanna head out of town for the weekend? I have pre-packed toiletry kits for everyone.

Don’t compliment me on this stuff. It’s a serious disorder. Telling me I’m uber-organized is akin to telling an anorexic person that she looks lovely. I took 10 weeks off work when the twins were born. When I wasn’t feeding, burping and changing Ryan and Paige, I was re-organizing the kitchen cupboards and cleaning closets and organizing my socks. The week I returned to work, I asked Megan, 4 at the time, if she was sad that I wouldn’t be at home as much. “Well,” Megan said, “the house has been really, really clean while you’ve been home, Mommy.” Ouch.

So there’s a constant voice in my head prodding me to align my goals and values with my time and action. Ask me what I want my kids to be like when they grow up, and I’d answer that I want them to be caring, compassionate souls. I’d love to see them passionately engaged in work that makes a difference. I’d like them to be fun, joyful people who know how to play well and work hard. I want them to know God intimately and be able to love deeply because they know they are well-loved.

At the Q conference in New York last year, I received a terrific book called, Every Monday Matters: 52 Ways to Make a Difference. The idea is that everyone loves Fridays and dreads Mondays. Why not turn Mondays into an amazing, incredible day to do something meaningful? The book suggests 52 activities to engage in each Monday: Write a note of gratitude. Mentor a child. Learn CPR. Pick up litter. Help the hungry.

Four years ago the kids and I came up with backward dinner night on Thursdays. It’s crazy but fun, especially when friends come over or when the kids get to explain to waitresses at restaurants that we’re having dessert first.

This year, with the gnawing sense that I need to re-evaluate my priorities, we’ve started celebrating Every Monday Matters. The kids helped me shop and make cards to welcome a neighbor’s baby and then walked over to their home to deliver the basket. We made dinner together to deliver to a sick friend. We mailed a care package to the cousins this week.

It’s not just that I want my kids to think outside of themselves, though I certainly want that. I’m hoping that it helps them form an everyday habit of gratitude for what they have and a sense of pleasure and fun for doing things for others. Problems like world hunger, AIDS, war can seem daunting, but I’m hoping my kiddos will get a glimpse of what can be accomplished or changed by their efforts.

I’m grateful that Friday is here. It’s a great day heralding the weekend ahead. But looking further down the lane at those “leading indicators”? Well, I hope my kids will one day remember Every Monday Matters.

[You can check out Every Monday Matters at: www.everymondaymatters.com