The cool aunt

gigi-note9 p.m.

I’ve been called a lot of things. A lot.

But the name that means the most is Aunt Kate.

I love being an aunt. Love it. It’s all perks, no problems.

I’m not the cool aunt, though. That’s my sister.

I’m the accountable aunt (read: bossy) who won’t buy my nieces anything pink or with a princess on it.

Admittedly, I can get a little crazy with the gender stuff.

If we play “school” I insist my niece be the principal and someone else be the teacher.

A few Christmases ago, I bought my youngest niece, who was then five, a work bench with tools and a cash register so she could play “business” instead of “house.”

A work bench and a cash register. It’s on every girl’s Christmas list, right?

This year, I gave that same niece, who’s now nine, three books.

One book is about a girl architect. The second is about Abigail Adams. And, the third book is called, “So you want to be president.” It gives kids interesting facts about our nation’s leaders.

I told you: I’m not the cool aunt.

Now, some people (my husband) don’t think I have a heart. But, I do. And, today it melted when we received a handwritten note from my niece.

It was written in pencil. (They still make those?)

And, she thanked us for the books. She said her favorite was the one about the presidents.

But, the best part?

She signed it, “Present (president) Grace.”

Next year we’ll get her the spelling book.

There’s no moral to this story. There’s no “so what?” to this blog. I just love knowing a seed was planted.

9:17 p.m.

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Note to self

2 p.m.

I recently received a letter from my 18-year old self.

Cue the “Dawson’s Creek” theme song.

I can’t decide if the letter is sweet and innocent or downright mortifying.

It was one of those, “I wanna read but I don’t wanna read” things and when I finally did read it, I made a pained face.

Parts of the handwritten note were riddled with teen angst. In fact, a good two pages focused on boy/girl drama.

Other parts were hilariously endearing with gems like:

“As you enter the business world, Kate, use your charm, knowledge and personality to obtain success.”

Did I really say “charm?”

I was also deeply philosophical and clearly wise beyond my 18 years with profound statements such as, “Remember, Kate, success isn’t measured in monetary terms but in happiness.”

If you’re not rolling your eyes, you should be. Because I am. And, I’m starting to wonder if I had any friends in high school. I mean, I wouldn’t hang out with me.

Other parts of the letter were downright ridiculous. I thought it necessary to include a list of my favorite foods at the time. Among the winners:

  • Ocean Spray’s Cran-Grape. I guess it’s better than vodka.
  • Chicken and rice. Adventurous!
  • Cookie Crisp cereal. What mother buys their kid that crap?

Are you wowed by my worldly palette?

(If you’re wondering why Diet Coke isn’t on the list. It would be another few years before I forged that relationship.)

Other critical details the letter included:

  • My height and weight. I was lying about it then, too. At least I’m consistent.
  • My shoe size. Still big.
  • And, quips such as, “Never forget where you’re from.” Because I was raised on the mean streets of Overland Park, Kan.?

My mentor encouraged me to write another letter to myself to open a decade from now.

Cran-Grape probably won’t make that list but another grape “juice” will.

3:05 p.m.

Figure it out

 

I recently closed a business.

Walking away, I feel a little lighter, a bit nostalgic, more confident and a lot smarter. More on the confidence piece in a minute.

My business was an online clothing store called TallChicksRule.com.

Great name, right?

If you know a female taller than 5’9”, you likely know the plight of tall fashionistas. I’m here to assure you: The struggle is real.

There’s this crazy misperception by clothing designers and retailers that if you’re a tall woman, you’re one of three things:

  1. 80-years old
  2. Amish
  3. A librarian

Seeing how I’m none of these — though I do like to read — I knew there had to be other tall chicks who wanted fashionable clothing options.

After all, our petite friends have lots of choices. Why should tall ladies be shorted?

I launched TallChicksRule in April 2008.  For the next few years, I ran all aspects of the business.

I negotiated with buyers and purchased inventory. Never done that before. 

I oversaw the company financials. Dude, I’m a PR person. We just round.

I handled all IT needs. Seems like a good time to share that I did not go to DeVry. 

Ninety-five percent of the time, I had no idea how to do something or it was my first time trying.

I just had to figure it out.

And, that’s where the confidence comes from my now closed business: I learned that I could figure it out.

TallChicksRule was not a commercial success. At one point, I owed $50,000. On a credit card. I’ll let that sink in.

(Pretty sure that day I started questioning my decision not to drink. And, decided that a flask would be my next fashion accessory.)

But it was a professional success that will continue having a lasting benefit on my career.

The first 15 years of my professional life were spent in corporate PR. I can’t think of many communications positions that would have provided first-hand experiences like:

  • Figuring out how to stay self-funded and digging myself out of that $50k hole.
  • Attending the top clothing “markets” and pitching hundreds of manufacturers on the benefits of making special sizes for my clients.
  • Opening a brick-and-mortar location – despite having no retail experience – while continuing to run the ecommerce site, and my PR consultancy – AKA my day job.
  • Learning how to navigate city, state and federal tax regulations. (Have I mentioned I’m not a mathlete?)

I now own just one business – a PR consultancy. My focus is on helping companies of all sizes tackle external, internal, executive, social and HR communication needs.

TallChicksRule didn’t lead to the early retirement I hoped but it did make me a better consultant.

I know what my small business clients face every day because I lived it. I get that their days are full of tasks they’ve never tried. And, I know how it feels to stare at a to-do list and think, “How will I ever…?”

The difference between Kate today and Kate 2008 is I now have the confidence and business know-how to help them figure it out.

After all, I’ve walked in their shoes. Mine are probably just a bigger size.

I’m more competitive than you are

1:01 p.m.

There’s a reason I don’t do yoga.

It takes me the first 20 — very awkward — minutes of class to stop competing.

Yes, I compete. In yoga.

“Think 6’2 girls can’t do half lotus crow pose? Watch this, suckas.”

Then, there’s UNO. It’s a family favorite that often includes my 9-year old niece. Screw teachable moments about numbers and colors and us all being winners. Bring your A-game, kid, ‘cuz Aunt Kate came to play.

I’m not ashamed to say that when my niece holds down her cards, I look. Judge me if you want but the kid’s gotta learn.

That’s my teachable moment.

In fairness, I do this to all my family members. Even my 93-year old great aunt. “The ol’ dementia excuse again, Aunt Bernice? Put in your teeth and play.”

My competitive nature isn’t limited to athletics or activities. I have a little game I play at the grocery store called, “My Cart is Healthier than Yours.”

It goes like this: I look at what’s in your cart and compare it to what’s in mine. Whoever has the healthier basket, wins.

True story: I once sent a segment idea to Oprah suggesting she show up at random grocery stores to see what people had in their carts.

Great idea, right?

O didn’t think so. But, had she shown up at my grocery store, my cart would have won. I just know it.

My competitiveness was recently pointed out by three different friends. My initial response was truly surprise. While it’s something I know about myself, I didn’t realize it was so obvious to others.

(You mean they knew I was competitive when I told my niece to quit her cryin’ and Draw Two? That is so weird.)

I may be a (ridiculous) competitor but I’m also a gracious loser. Don’t get me wrong, I do the victory lap around my mom’s kitchen after the family UNO throw down. Sometimes I even throw in an Arsenio Hall fist pump.

But, if you beat me, you beat me. I’ll congratulate you. Then, I’ll start plotting ways to take you down next time.

1:34 p.m.

Netflix, I blame you

2:35 p.m.

Netflix, I blame you.

You’re the reason my summer reading list is in the tank.

I get my daily dose of current events with USA Today for breakfast, CNN and WSJ for lunch, and then I fall asleep to the NY Times.

(This is where I say to myself: The NYT before bed? How old are you?)

But, my summer reading list sits waiting. Staring at me with its judge-y eyes.

I truly wanted to read “All the Light We Cannot See,” but instead, I made my way through five seasons — at 20 shows a season — of “Friday Night Lights.”

I’m almost embarrassed to admit I watched 100 episodes of TV about Texas football.

But, with clear eyes and a full heart — you knew that was coming — I professed my devotion to Coach Taylor.

Once “Friday” wrapped, I caught up on the latest season of “Scandal,” which I intentionally didn’t watch during prime time so I could binge watch during the summer.

(Hint: When you a Netflix plan, you officially have a problem.)

Two weeks later, “Scandal” was done and now, here I am, knee-deep in “Damages.”

I want to read books. That’s what educated people do. But: Glenn. Close. Is. Winning. She’s not just winning — she’s smirking at me the way she does right before she shreds her opposing counsel.

So, here I am, one week before Labor Day and my summer reading list sits collecting dust. But, I’m making excellent progress on season two of “Damages.”

After that, it will probably be “The Good Wife” on Amazon Prime. Then, there’s “Downton Abbey.” And, “The Americans.”

Meanwhile, my Goodreads list keeps getting longer…and lonelier.

2:56 p.m.

(D)emoticon

2:45 p.m.

I have a confession: I’ve never used an emoticon or an emoji.

Never. Not once.

No smiley faces. No hearts. No thumbs up. No ghosts. No semi-colon and right parenthesis.

My texts and emails are just words.

Emojis and emoticons are used to give context, temper, and express what you can’t get across in words or electronically.

But I don’t like ‘em.

My rule: If you need an emoji or emoticon to convey the real meaning or to prevent something from being misconstrued, you need to re-write the message.

It sounds hard core. Probably a little crabby. (Perfect spot for a crab emoji, right?) And, like I’m really stuffy.

But, I’m not.

It’s the same way I feel about superfluous exclamation points!!!!!!!!!

I don’t want little ghosts and cartoon characters (or excessive punctuation) muckin’ up my emails and texts.

It’s a losing battle. I know. Because everyone uses emojis and emoticons.

Everyone but me. [Sad face]

3:16 p.m.

Summer holiday

10:25 p.m.

I’m somewhere over the Atlantic traveling home from our summer holiday — a 10-day cruise to Turkey, Greece and Italy.

(I sound so sophisticated when I say “holiday” instead of “vacation.”)

I met so many interesting people in the last week-and-a-half. And, as I think about the places I enjoyed most, it had nothing to do with what we saw or what we did.

It had everything to do with the people I met. How I was treated where I was visiting. (And, probably with what we ate!)

We met a cool restaurant owner in Mykonos when we dined at his oceanfront place. Our tour guide in Sicily referred to our 12-person group as her “family” – even though we only spent four hours with her. Then there was the Dane I shared a bus seat with on the way to a Santorini beach. He gave me the ins and outs of the island and made me want to visit his country next.

I was especially touched by our tour guide in Thessaloniki. She was with us in the heat of the Greece financial crisis. Visibly upset, she made sure to tell us how hard the people of Greece work and how troubled they are by the country’s financial straits.

All strangers when we started. And, all people I wanted to hug when we left.

Sure, we met a grouch or two along the way.

I wanted to duke it out with a fussy Russian over a laundry charge on the ship but thought that might go viral and be career-limiting.

Then there was the nude sunbather. He let it all hang out.

Yes, he.

And, all.

Ahem. We’ll leave it there ‘cuz my mom reads this blog.

The overwhelming majority, though, kindly stumbled with us through the language gaps. Helped us navigate directions and bus schedules. Told us what to order. And, perhaps most importantly, let us use their water closets.

I learned a lot about myself this trip. For instance: I CAN go ten days without Diet Coke.

But more importantly, the friends I met this week taught me how to be a better ambassador when those from other countries visit my homeland.

11:25 p.m.

(Yes, I know it’s been an hour. But, Delta served our meal. And, I’m not one to ever miss a meal.)