Power Woman

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Had an odd thing happen at work today, something that gave me pause for several reasons. We have consultants doing an assessment for us over 13 weeks and it’s about halfway done. They’re conducting a series of interviews with personnel in different departments. I’ve participated in a few of the meetings, both as an interviewee and observer/contributor.

This young female attorney is part of the team. She’s whip smart, confident, stylish, and attractive. The whole package. Frankly the whole team is relatively young and incredibly sharp. Sigh. Reminds me of the days when I was younger, sitting on the other side of the table, flying around the country doing similar work. You learn a massive amount of knowledge in a short period of time working as a consultant, and I miss those days sometimes. What an incredible way to build a foundation for a career.

Notice I said “when I was younger” and not “when I was young”. I don’t care what my chronological age is, I’m not old. I may not be the youngest in the room, I may even be the oldest in the room, but I am not old. That’s the one of the beautiful things about being so intensely curious, you don’t have time to grow old in mind or spirit. Forever young.

Anyway this young woman seeks me out to grab a cup of coffee to continue talking about one of the matters that arose during the interviews, and I was happy to oblige. Part of me was surprised, because outreach from younger people rarely happens, so I wondered if there was more to the request.

Shortly after the conversation began, she confessed she sought me out deliberately. “Ever since law school, everywhere I go, I look around for the power women.” That’s who she wants to know and she’s taking the time in her consulting career right now to meet these women wherever they are across the country since our industry doesn’t have an influx of women in it. She wanted to understand how I got into my line of work, what my experience has been, how I balance career and life, and where I think our industry is going.

We talked for nearly two hours. Our chemistry was immediate, and frankly, it was incredibly cool. I learned about how she immigrated from western Asia as a pre-schooler in the mid-90s and how she was he first in her family to go to college, let alone law school. How the professional and personal path she is carving for herself is very different from her family of origin, and it is important to her to seek mentors. When she goes home, she has no one to guide or advise her because they don’t understand her career or lifestyle, nor do they always agree with her choices. Choices that look very smart to me, but nevertheless radically different than what her family knows.

I sat across from her, humbled, honored, and full of admiration for her initiative. I wished there were women mentors like that available to me when I was her age. When I was her age, my office had one woman partner who was strangely aloof toward the younger women staff. She finally softened up in her late 40s, only after she learned she was dying from cancer. She passed a few days after she turned 50. Back then I wished there was a thing called LinkedIn where I could easily remain in touch with the few women I did meet. I’ve been on LinkedIn since 2002 or 2003 but it seems like only now is this the day and age where staying professionally connected online is a thing. And good for my coffee date to have the foresight to network like a boss early on in her career.


Now part of what made today feel so good was the ego-stroking, I’ll admit. I admired my new friend from across the consulting table and the feeling was mutual? And even better: she called me a power woman.

Damn straight, I am.

I may not know everything there is to know in my line of work but no one does. I’m curious, bright, and a holistic and strategic thinker. I can figure things out. I’m resourceful enough to know who I need to collaborate with internally and externally to my company to make things happen and I have the initiative to do it, so I do. I see the sweet spot where company need, my skill set, and my interests all intersect and frankly, I am one of the only people I know who can pull it all together. Deep in my bones, I know that about me and I have total confidence in my ability to deliver.

But this is where the conversation felt odd and I wanted to be dismissive: I don’t claim the “power woman” label. Ever. I know I should own it, but part of me is too humble to go there. Part of me was looking over each shoulder to see who she was talking about. Did she actually mean me?

Now the crazy thing is, humility can be a good thing – and sometimes I hear overpowering Christian messages to be humble – but humility is not helpful when you’re eager to contribute and live a life of meaning. It often requires stepping far outside your comfort zone. And the Bible even guides us not to hide our talents under a bushel.

But back to humility: I mentally struggle with whether I have arrived at a place of enough significance in my own life and with my own accomplishments to own the “power woman” title. At what point have I actually “arrived”? I don’t know the answer to that question.

I come from such humble beginnings, the fact that I even went to college for an undergraduate degree was a big deal. The knowledge I’ve gained since then is enormous. And the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know.

Take the case of some volunteer work I’ve agreed to do. I have reluctantly joined the finance committee of a non-profit. I say reluctantly because I struggle to think I’m the smartest financial mind to tackle the issues at hand. Surely there have to be others who are more qualified.  But there aren’t. It’s me. I have what it takes, and what it takes is someone to step up. And now that I have, I’m committed to solving the problems. I can’t just kick the can down the road when I know a better way to handle it. Part of me wants to blow everyone away with improvements (seriously, the running list in my head is already endless) but I also need to pace myself being that it is volunteer work after all and I don’t need to burn myself out. Nor should I drive changes at a pace that overwhelms everyone involved. So yeah, I am the power woman who can make it work.

Still, it’s hard work to strip away the limits I put on myself. I can keep growing if I so choose, and I know this to be true because I’ve proven it over three decades of professional life.


I mentioned before that courage is my word for 2019, and I’ve challenged myself with a couple of quotes:

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

And this one:

There is no passion to be found in playing small and settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. – Nelson Mandela  

Both of those are meant to jolt me awake, especially the Mandela quote which truly speaks to me.

Still, I told my coffee date about how I don’t consider myself a power woman, and we laughed about it. We both knew the story of Oprah who was asked to give Harvard’s commencement speech, and she was nervous about it. She wondered if she was good enough to live up to the honor, it being Harvard after all.

But she’s OPRAH. She practically written the book on how to carve a life of meaning on your own terms.  

And my coffee date and I then laughed over the story of how Beyonce turned to Oprah on another occasion, and asked whether her performance was likewise “good enough”.

Queen Bey said what? 

Both of these women are powerhouses in their respective fields, frankly superstars who have transcended their original line of work to be true artists, and they’re asking the same question? The same question I’m asking? 

At least I’m in good company. 

I know you’re not supposed to care what other people think of you, but I do. I don’t want to look or be foolish or arrogant. There are plenty of men and women with titles higher than the one I hold right now, and frankly, you could easily argue that it is their responsibility to make the magic happen, not mine. But then I think of yet another quote: 

Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts. It’s about one life influencing another. – John C. Maxwell 

I also think of a friend of mine, this intoxicatingly strong woman, a power woman if ever I met one. She’s a surgeon, author, and pioneer in her chosen specialty. She tweets pictures of herself and her activities with the hashtag #Ilooklikeasurgeon to educate people what women do and how they succeed in the STEM fields. My admiration for her is through the roof. 

We had a recent conversation about self-worth which spawned another hashtag, this one called #knowyourworth, and I know this: my current title is no indication of my value. I know my value. I know my stuff, yet I am likewise savvy enough to recognize the need for expert advice to close the gaps on things I don’t know. I often think I need to own my worth to the same degree as I know it, taking my cue from my surgeon friend. 

But my coffee date? What a way to start a Monday.

Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

Just Another Typical Crazy Day

adult-alone-black-and-white-551588Two weeks back I took one of those “emergency” vacation days. Made the call at 7 am. I felt like a school superintendent calling a “snow day” except 1) I’m not a kid and 2) doing it only provided a tiny bit of relief, not the euphoria we used to get as kids with a snow day. Nothing particularly bad happened. Just everything hit the fan all at once it seems.

Honestly, I don’t know how people do it. For starters, the evening before I drove our puppy and two youngest kids home from a visit to see family, taking four hours in the nightfall, snowy slush with bad windshield wipers for what should have been a two-hour drive home max. I’m a pretty good driver in the snow, if I say so myself. Even my Utah-born husband, who knows a thing or two about snow, is amazed at my nerves of steel and skill driving in snowy weather, inclement weather of any kind, or heavy traffic, all honed from years of travel across the country for work. But still, four hours of 40 MPH, the constant sound of your tires cutting through massive amounts of slush, and skittish drivers on the road with you is enough to unnerve anyone. I collapsed in a heap once I got home.

On the way home, our daughter announces that her grade school Art Club is meeting Monday morning at 7:30 am, instead of its regular Wednesday morning, to make plaster masks they will decorate so she needs 1) a shower cap, 2) hand towel, and 3) jar of Vaseline. This is the art equivalent of hearing your kid has a science fair project due the next day. All this would be fine if we were getting home at a decent hour but I heard it in the middle of an evening snow squall and I wasn’t sure what time we’d be getting home. Then I realize that art could conflict with her orthodontic appointment at 8:30 am (which turns out was really 9 am) but being a mom who understands how FUN the whole project could be, I wanted to make it work for her. We would try to do both, and I tried not to panic or lose it.

My husband was supposed to take her to her ortho appointment, and I was counting on it for weeks, but he had missed Monday morning work at one of his three contracted schools for three or four weeks in a row, and that Monday would have been yet another incident. We’d rather he not get fired from that school contract for being a no-show (reputation and integrity matter a lot, you see….), so I sat at home late the night before and very very early the morning of the impromptu vacation, trying to figure out how I could work from home and do all I needed to.

It feels a little backward to find ways to help him with his work with me being the breadwinner, but there are days when I have flexibility at work, and that has not always been the case, so I hang my hat on that thought and try to make it work.

Our sitter, who usually takes the kids to and from school in the morning, works another job and often has appointments for her own personal life. She’s entitled to a life outside of the help she gives us. I just couldn’t ask her at the last minute to be late for her obligations to help us out. It makes me sick to my stomach to ask for help. It really does. I just couldn’t do it.

Did I mention that my husband said to me, also late the night before, “Oh, [our oldest] has an orthodontic appointment in the afternoon to get fitted for a replacement retainer,” he lost last weekend on our trip to get the puppy, “and I don’t think I can get him there after all.”

And then I realized, OMG, I had an eye appointment that same afternoon myself.

Really? Really. Really?

I was not ready for it to be Monday. Really I wasn’t.


I have the flexibility to work from home in situations exactly like the one described above, but I feel GUILTY doing it, even with my boss’ blessing and her boss’ blessing, even though it’s perfectly acceptable to do on a periodic, as-needed basis, or even a routine basis…but nothing about the way I’ve been doing seems to fit either category. I don’t want to abuse the working from home capability, you know? And God knows I don’t need anyone at work to feel resentful about what I’m fortunate enough to be able to do, especially if their current role does not allow for the same, because believe me, not everyone’s role allows them to do this.

I mean, for heavens’ sake, I had just spent the week prior working from home to acclimate a new puppy to our house! I jokingly called it “PETernity leave” (see Puppy-Parent Pooped), which is just a play on words because honestly I was working. True, it took me longer to put in a full day’s work any given day, and then there was a point on both Wednesday and Friday where I just passed out on the sofa because: EXHAUSTED? (Seriously, we bought this sectional for our family room that is better than a Tempur-pedic mattress. I can’t sit on it even a tiny bit tired because it wraps its soft, velour upholstery around my body and lulls me to sleep.) I HAD to claim a half day of vacation just from that time I am not going to make up in any way.

Are you starting to grasp what I’m dealing with here? I mean, WHAT? How does all of this just RAIN down on us the way it does? I guess I knew about the ortho appointments, both of them. And my eye appointment. But I didn’t realize they were all the same day! And throw in Art Club….

How do people actually work with kids? My husband’s missed a ton of work lately, visiting his mom, being sick himself earlier in January (or maybe that was December…I can’t even remember because it’s just a big, giant blur), then there were snow days…

We DO have an official policy on workplace flexibility, and I am very fortunate I’m in a role where I am no longer in the back to back meetings daily like I used to be, in a job that had an unrelenting pace. That’s when I felt compelled to push-off doctor’s appointments as long as I possibly could, or even sent our sitter to take the kids to appointments I should have attended as the parent… That’s just wrong, but when you have no backup…what do you do? In the meantime, my employer has loosened its grip on a cultural norm that all meetings were to be held face-to-face. They’ve provided a number of technology tools to facilitate remote/work from home meeting, so not only is it ok, they enable it.

So my impromptu vacation day? I spent it at home, writing most of what you’re reading right now (to let off steam), and then running to appointments throughout the day. I got about two hours of effort in for work because there were some things that I absolutely had to tackle that Monday, but otherwise I took full day of vacation.

And why did I put in those couple of hours of work? The very next day, Tuesday, I would show up late for work because I had a two-hour diagnostic breast imaging/mammogram in the morning. Here we go again. For the 2nd year in a row the medical team found interesting stuff they want to explore further. I went through a needle biopsy last year (see The Biopsy Blues) and they found nothing but there I was hearing that maybe something is going on after all. I didn’t even have time to think about it. I figured I would deal with whatever that would mean for me when the time comes, but karma has a way of kicking you in the butt. More on that in a post yet to come.

I mean, I know I need to take a deep breath. Pray. Meditate. Clean the house. Something. I missed about a month of church at this point, traveling for two of those weeks, dealing with a snow storm a third, and just flat-out run-down a fourth. Gosh, run down? Imagine that.

I know I’m preaching to the choir. I know this is what having kids is like. This is what working is like. Plenty of people have it WAY worse. I have several friends who’ve lost a parent recently, friends who are dealing with illness that runs the gamut of mildly inconvenient to life-threatening, and loss of income that goes with it. That stuff is REAL. I’m just an overgrown baby, whining…

It’s just, I haven’t been working out, I’ve been eating terrible food, I’m sleep deprived, I have a headache, and I’m feeling hugely guilty about not being on-site at work when we have a tough issue I’m trying to help us solve and the answer just isn’t coming easily. And I take things WAY too seriously. I can’t wait to get back to a normal schedule.

I think I need a nap. Thanks for letting me vent. If you see yourself in me, and that makes you feel better, good. If you don’t see yourself in me and you think I’m crazy, but it makes you feel better about yourself, good!

I leave you with this thought from Dr. Brene Brown, who has so much to teach us. I heart her. And courage is my word for 2019.

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Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels

Word of the Year 2019

Happy new year!

It’s become a thing for many people to choose a single word that will be their focus or mantra for the new year. This hasn’t always been a habit of mine. I guess I became aware of the practice a few years ago but didn’t apply it to my own life until recently.

Although I didn’t choose a word for 2017, one quickly revealed itself to me early on: travel. That was the year I turned 50, and I decided that it was time I started visiting people and places that had been on my wish list for too long.

I had originally wanted to travel to Iceland as part of a big birthday trip that year, but I ended up making several mini-trips instead, and it was just as glorious if not more so. It was so much fun, I really kept the trend going well into 2018 with several more trips. Between work and play, I’ll bet I had a dozen or so trips under my belt. The nomad, the wanderer, in me can’t sit still.

Not all those who wander are lost. – J. R. R. Tolkien

Last year, I tried to choose a single word, but in true Silonda style, I chose three: breathe, connect, and nest (see My Intention for 2018)! I really need to work on that following instructions/simplification thing… 🤣

Cue 2019. Somehow January snuck up on me. I don’t know how! For two, solid months I knew I wanted to devote some time to planning and dreaming for the upcoming year, two of my absolute favorite things to do, but I just wasn’t settled enough to pull it off.

Planning and dreaming is important stuff, but I had the overwhelming urge to purge things out of my house instead. What do they say? “Outer order invokes inner calm”? So I’m just telling myself that the physical purging of stuff was needed to proceed on to the inner task of meditation.

Still, the task of choosing a single word to focus on was daunting, which is crazy: it ought to be pure fun!

Through an online friend I came across the Dayspring quiz for your 2019 word of the year, so figured I’d give it a whirl.  The questions were Biblically-based, but low and behold (cue the angels on trumpets), they revealed an excellent word for me for 2019: courage.

courageCourage might be worth 10 Scrabble points but it’s priceless in the game of life, eh?

Why courage, you might ask? I never really thought of myself as a skittish, fraidy-cat type. I’m not meek and never have been but yes, I can be a quiet observer. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to experience the slow building of confidence that comes from sticking your neck out, trying new things, honing a skill, and getting recognition for excellence. Basically, I’m not a confidence newbie.

But like any muscle, it gets weak if you don’t exercise it. That said, I will –

  • Catch myself whenever I say, “I can’t do that!” to describe something I’m afraid to do and change it to, “I will do that!”
  • Take the time to warmly welcome anyone new in my social or professional circle and help them connect to others, even if I am not the official “host” or MC of that circle. I will summon up the courage to play the role anyway and not concern myself with how that might appear to others.
  • Ask myself, “What would courage look like?” in times of uncertainty and then act on it.
  • Step up and speak out whenever I see injustice, like racism, sexism, or bullying.
  • Lead efforts I feel should be made.
  • Share what’s in my heart, in person and this blog.
  • Dare to dream bigger than I have before.
  • Breathe deeply and remember that I’m batting 1.000 in my ability to get this far in life.

What about you? Have you chosen a word for 2018? What does it mean to you? How did you discover it? And most importantly, how will you use it to influence the year ahead?

Sending you my very best wishes for the seasons ahead. Peace, health, and happiness to you all. ✌🏻❤️