Beatitudes of my life

Being grateful for everything in my life…. no matter what…

Carry The Load – #whoareyoucarrying May 17, 2014

It’s almost Memorial Day…. a day that was created to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. This day was originally intended to be celebrated with accolades for those who made it home safely while remembering those who will only make it home in our memories.  Sadly, its history can be as confusing and confounded as the way it is celebrated each year, especially if you try finding out any basic, decisive information via Wikipedia by clicking this link.

I feel that there is a big question we should be asking ourselves these days.  “Is this how our children willCTL-LOGO-W-TAG remember Memorial Day?”  Is this how we *should* remember Memorial Day today?  If your answer isn’t something even remotely patriotic, what are we doing to change that fact?

I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. I remember celebrating Memorial Day by marching in our local parade; first with my elementary classes, then the Girl Scouts and later with our middle school marching band. For what seemed like “hours in the hot sun”, we would follow the parade route down the center of town before ending at the local cemetery where we would lay flowers on the graves of local fallen soldiers. It was a solemn day… but one that would end with baseball and fireworks at the local rec park.

It wasn’t as if we didn’t know *why* we were marching on this day. We discussed Memorial Day in school for weeks beforehand to learn just how important this day was to the history of our country. What I can’t remember now is, “when did we stop”? When did we, as a town, decide not to continue to celebrate Memorial Day in a way that would honor our veterans? When did we, as a country, turn Memorial Day into a day of “burgers and beer” instead of one in which we visibly appreciate the sacrifice of the fallen? When did we, as a people, stop being grateful for the service of every man and woman in uniform?

I have to say that I am a huge “America” geek. I get teary when we sing the National Anthem before a sporting event. I get choked up anytime I see a video of service member being welcomed home. I love holidays that celebrate our great country and all that it represents. I may be a huge wimp when it comes to fireworks, but the pomp and circumstance of it all? Thanking our military for standing in harms way? Honoring every single man and woman who has ever willingly chosen to defend our freedom? I’m ALL for it… believe we don’t do enough of it… and am praying that we start recognizing the need to do *something* before it’s too late.

Carry The Load is a non-profit organization focused on restoring the true meaning of Memorial Day by remembering and honoring America’s heroes. They conduct events which raise money to support existing non-profit organizations which benefit police officers, fire fighters, veterans, and active-duty military and their families. They are walking… picking up their packs and literally walking… speaking along the way to anyone who will listen… as they make their slow, deliberate journey from West Point, NY to Dallas, TX, just in time to hold a 20-hour Memorial March which will culminate in what is sure to be an incredible closing ceremony on Monday, May 26, at 12:30PM. If there is a chance for you, dear reader, to be in Dallas for Memorial Day, I would most heartily suggest you do anything you can to attend this event.

I stumbled upon it too late this year to really *do* much to help. Flipping through my FB newsfeed, the back story of Clint Bruce and how he came to create such a worthy organization spoke volumes to me. This organization was created in such an organic way that I couldn’t ignore that small voice inside that pushed me to reach out to Clint and find out if/how I could help.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to learn about Carry The Load, please consider doing something over the coming year to help change the face of Memorial Day… if not for this year, then for next year and the next and the next, until Memorial Day once again means something more than a day off work.

We should never forget all that others have given to protect and defend our way of life.  We should appreciate all the blessings of our life and look for ways to give back to our neighborhoods, our communities, and our world.  We should remember… and in remembering… we should be thankful.

May we all find ways to be genuinely thankful this Memorial Day.  For if we are free, then we have been blessed by the blood of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

To all who serve, we thank you.  To those who gave all, we honor you.  #whoareyoucarrying

 

Answering Leadership Questions January 21, 2014

Filed under: Blessings,Communication,Family,Life Balance,Uncategorized,Volunteering — beatitudesofmylife @ 8:19 am
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I was recently approached by a grad student-friend who asked me some questions for her Women’s Studies Leadership class. I was flattered that she would consider me to be someone who might have something to contribute, but as I looked through her questions, I quickly realized that I would have to contemplate a bit before replying. This young woman was asking me, as I would have once asked another, and I couldn’t be glib or pithy… I needed to share the insights that I’d found through my life’s leadership journey. When reading my responses, I felt called to share this on my blog… and I hope you agree.

Here are the questions I was given:

Basics
1. Name:
2. Work Position Title(s):
3: Family Structure:

Leadership Journey
1. How did you get interested in your current position?
2. How has leadership played in your life?
3. What was you first experience as a leader?
4. What educational and professional experiences did you have that prepared you for work?
5. Has your journey as a leader ever changed directions?
6. Have you had any mentors? If so, what did you learn from them?
7. As a woman, what challenges have you faced?

Day to Day Life
1. What is a typical day/week like for you?
2. Do you mostly work alone and/or in groups?
3. What major roles and responsibilities do you have?
4. What is the most rewarding part of your work?
5. What is the most challenging part of your work?

Support/Personal
1. Where have you found support?
2. How do you find/make balance in your life?
3. How do you balance work, marriage and children?
4. How does your work fit with your identity, values, etc.?
5. How would you rate the stress level in your work?

Advice
1. What would you recommend for someone interested in becoming a leader?
2. What advice would you give to young women aspiring to be leaders?

Here are my responses…

Basics:
1. Alison Blair Althouse (nee: Drum)
2. Event Coordinator, James River Cellars Winery, Glen Allen VA
3. Married for 24+ years with 2 sons (ages 23 and 21)

Leadership Journey:
1. I love working at the winery and sharing our wines with the public. As I spent more and more time at the winery, I found that I had a flair for organizing events at our winery and had a desire to become more involved in the event side of our winery’s business.
2. Leadership is a deliberate decision for me. I have held many varied leadership positions throughout my life and I have learned to “pick my battles” and be very determined when and where I become involved.
3. My first experience as a leader came during my sophomore year of college when I took charge of our Freshman Bash. I volunteered for the position and found that I had an ability to find the “interesting” within the mundane and sometimes tedious sides of leadership.
4. I have held a myriad of volunteer positions that have challenged me to test the waters of leadership before eventually seeking and obtaining paid positions within various organizations.
5. My journey as a leader is constantly changing direction, depending on the needs of my life and my family. Early in my life, leadership seemed more about following what had been done before and guiding others to look toward the pre-determined goals of a specific organization. As I’ve gotten older, I’m less likely to be satisfied by static growth and historic plans. I do my best to try and challenge myself using current technologies and question the viability of protocols in place… are these working? If things aren’t working, how can we make things better?
6. I have had a great number of mentors throughout my life… and each one has shown up at just the “right” time and for the “needed” length of time. The women in my life have continued to provide me with strong female role models throughout my life, but I don’t have a problem seeking mentors (both older and younger than me) as I find a need.
7. I faced challenges when working as the Athletic Director for a boys’ lacrosse team – setting up and organizing their schedules in what had traditionally been a male-dominated world was fun as I exceeded expectations and succeeded where others had failed (or just not flourished). The idea of “catching more bees with honey than with vinegar” was especially helpful – people would much prefer to do something for you if they feel appreciated than if they feel they *have to* do it.

Day to day life:
1. A typical week for me will find me working at the winery 3-4 mornings each week (unless I’m actually included on the schedule), from 8:30AM until 1PM or so. I then go home and start planning/making dinner before Michael comes home from work. I like to make dinner as often as possible – even if the entire family isn’t able to sit down at the table together, I love being able to have food for them to eat at home – it’s part of why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. Spending time together is key, no matter where or how.
2. I work in a small office setting that can vary from 2-5 in number. If conditions warrant, I can do some of my work from home (via my iPad) or using the company laptop, although I much prefer to be around people if possible.
3. I am responsible for coordinating the events that are booked at James River Cellars Winery in Glen Allen, VA. I am also responsible for the Social Media for the winery (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Yelp, etc) and some of the documents created within the winery (wine club newsletter, chalkboards, ID cards, etc), depending on the needs of our manager. I also write and manage a wine blog where I post recipes and wine-related information. (www.fromthebottomofawinebottle.wordpress.com)
4. The most rewarding part of my job is seeing people enjoy our wines – I love doing tastings and introducing people to the non-snobby side of wine.
5. The most challenging part of my job is sometimes figuring out the “how” of a project – learning the different idiosyncrasies and nuances of how my boss has done things in the past with my own abilities and availability.

Support/Personal:
1. My support comes from my relationship with my husband… he is my rock, my helper, my best confidante, and my favorite sounding board. He knows me well enough to help me keep a strong work/life balance and understands when I need to simply vent with no expectation of answers. He makes me want to be my best at all things and loves me unconditionally. Knowing his complete belief in me has enabled me to take risks I might not otherwise have taken… I am most richly blessed with his love.
2. Balance is hard… I like to go at things 150% but my MS (multiple sclerosis) requires that I rest and recharge more than most. My husband is wonderful at reminding me to take time for *me*…
3. As my kids were growing up, any outside work I did was third in line for my attention. My husband and my boys were the MOST important thing as they were growing up – including their HS and college years. They always know that they (hubby and boys) are my highest priority but I’m able to work my job around them and their needs. Family comes first… no questions asked. My boss is firm on this as well – I couldn’t work for a company that didn’t believe in the importance of family.
4. My sense of identity has been fairly fluid over the years. I have been M’s wife, D’s and E’s mom “forever”… and I will always be in those roles. I’m now learning that there’s no shame in being “the recipe lady” at the winery… and there’s something very satisfying about a job well-done, no matter what it may be. I strive to do the best I can in anything I do… no one can ask more of me.
5. My stress level at work is as high as I make it – if I’m getting too stressed out about something, then I’m not focusing on the joy of my job. I get to work with wine… I get to teach people about wine… if I can’t find the joy in that, then I’m in the wrong business. 🙂

Advice:
1. If someone is interested in becoming a leader, whether it be in their community, their church, or at work, my suggestion is to study the characteristics of those leaders you admire. Leaders, in my opinion, are people who are able to gather the strengths of many and raise up those who can contribute most in specific situations. When I was Senior Warden (President of church council) at our parish, we faced a financial difficulty – since my Junior Warden was a CPA and CFO of a local company, I relied on his ability to translate the financial issues to our parishioners, rather than attempt to convey the information myself. There are opportunities for leadership in all aspects of our lives – you simply need to recognize them as such and be confident in your abilities. Learn from the mistakes of others, and those done by yourself, so they aren’t repeated. Recognize when you need to step back to allow for growth. Sometimes the best leader is the one who can recognize when someone else needs to take the helm for awhile.
2. The advise I would pass along to women who want to be leaders would be to use your femininity as an asset and NOT as a crutch. If you’re working with an entire group of men, realize that many will underestimate you, so use that to your advantage. If you’re working with a group of women, you should recognize that there will be a few who will see you as “the competition”, no matter your role in the group. Be firm… be kind… and follow the golden rule…. do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I hope this helps. There’s a terrific book called, “A Single Piece of Paper” that I have found to be an invaluable resource with regards to leadership and finding your leadership style. It was written by a friend/colleague of my husband (Mike Figliulo) and worth the read. I blogged about it on my other blog (beatitudesofmylife.wordpress.com) under the piece called “my maxims”. That might be helpful information to consider.

Wishing you all success as you travel this life’s journey, finding your own style of leadership and coming to grips with the type of leader you want to become.

 

Everything has a lifespan August 26, 2012

Filed under: Lacrosse,Life Balance,Sports,Volunteering — beatitudesofmylife @ 5:16 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Cue the words to the song by The Byrds, “Turn, Turn, Turn”.  See if you can tell where I’m going with these lyrics:

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

(Chorus)

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

(Chorus)

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing

(Chorus)

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late

I’m about to make a big change in my life with regards to where I am going to volunteer my time, but it’s taken more soul searching than I expected…

Let me first say that I am not a fan of change.   I do enjoy a challenge but I also am very happy to work behind the scenes, year after year, expanding and enhancing my role within an organization until it fits “just right”.  Maintaining the “status quo” is fine with me… for awhile.

I ran into this situation first when E was playing youth association football.  He made the decision, in eighth grade, to play lacrosse instead of football.  While his move was totally fine with us, I was upset because I had enjoyed being the Team Mom for his age group and felt that I had already committed to continuing that position for one more year.  After a bit of discussion, I decided to honor the commitment that I had made to the team and, while E played lacrosse, I was the “Team Mom with no child on the team”.  I did skip out early on the occasional practice that was cutting into dinner time that fall, but for all intents and purposes, I was present for every scrimmage, game, and team event that fall.  I had a blast and enjoyed every moment of being on those sidelines… and my boys saw a mom who followed through on a commitment she had made to a group of kids, whether they were related to me or not.

Fast forward to this year… I had joined the Board of Directors of the lacrosse program for which E played until he graduated HS.  I then continued to work for that program, as Secretary, Scheduler and “Athletic Director” for another two years.  This past spring was the end of that sixth year and I have decided that the “lifespan” of my participation with this amazing program has run its course and come to an end.  As much as I hate to leave the safety of my direct association with the people who have created and built the Richmond Shock Lacrosse program, and subsequently the Central Virginia Lacrosse League (CVLL), I believe that there are others who need to take my place and influence the direction of these programs for their own children.

Once I made this decision, the next question was “what do I do now?”  I had built a professional network of coaches, schedulers, referees, and athletic directors that I was loathe to leave the lacrosse community completely… there had to be something I could do or somewhere I could use my unique skill set.  Enter the Richmond Chapter of US Lacrosse.

I had first encountered this organization when E was selected for their Boys’ All-Star game at the end of his senior year.  This was their inaugural game and by happenstance I was their event photographer.  I followed their program from the periphery, but didn’t think about becoming involved until I was asked to consider organizing a Coaches Clinic, which never quite came to fruition, but succeeded in whetting my appetite to become involved.

Involved how was the big question now.  As I contemplated stepping away from Shock, I looked at the landscape of lacrosse in our local area and found it sorely lacking.  In my humble opinion, it’s not lacking in kids… it’s not lacking in interest… it’s lacking in direction.  My new quest was slowly presenting itself to me… I could, somehow, become involved in expanding and helping to develop this amazing sport.  Now all I had to do was figure out how to get others to allow me to become involved.

I wrote a very persuasive letter to the Chapter to explain to them that they needed a Director of Sport Development and Marketing.  With M’s gracious help, we scoured the National US Lacrosse site looking for a precedent that I could use to explain my goal of becoming involved with the Richmond Chapter.  I explained how my history and my involvement would benefit the Chapter and was eventually voted onto the Board…yea, ME!

While it’s still a very new venture for me, I am tremendously excited to be working to expand lacrosse within the reaches of the Richmond Chapter.  My goal is to expand our presence on Facebook and Twitter, keep our website as up-to-date as possible (thank GOD for M), and find out how to go about increasing training, certifications, and qualification programs for anyone who’s interested in becoming involved with lacrosse.

There is a new world opening up to me and while one door is slowly closing, this new door is bursting open with possibilities and promise.  I know I’m looking at all of this through rose-colored glasses (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/through+rose-colored+glasses) but if I focus on all that can’t happen, I’ll never see the possibilities.

Besides… the world looks so much prettier this way.

 

A quick commentary on parental travel March 3, 2012

Filed under: Blessings,Communication,Lacrosse,Parenting,Photography,Sports,Uncategorized,Volunteering — beatitudesofmylife @ 8:15 am

It’s a Saturday in March and we are getting ready to drive 3 hours to MD to watch my son’s lacrosse team play.  Mind you, our son D isn’t playing… he’s got an Avulsion Fracture on his ankle and is on “complete rest” for 5 days before he can even start rehab.  It’s just “what we do” when our kids’ teams are playing and we have any possible opportunity to watch and attend the game.  Is this craziness or just parenting?

We’ve always been this way.  If our boys were on a sports team, we were in the stands (or tramping out onto the opposite sideline) to support their efforts.  It’s never really been an issue of whether or not our son gets his moment on the field… it’d be nice to see him play, but that’s really not my focus.  The primary reason for being there is to show our support in the most tangible way… we’re THERE.

No matter the level of sport played, there’s always a component of dedication that must be present in the player.  Youth leagues, High School, Travel programs, College… they all require participation on the part of each student-athlete.  In my humble opinion (IMHO), I believe the part we play as parents is simply to be present at any venue in which our kids participate.  It’s not an issue of how many minutes they play…. it’s not whether they’re even physically able to be on the field.  It’s the idea that our kids have made this choice… this commitment… to get up each day, get out on that field, and be a part of a team so we need to support them.

My younger son has had many more years of parental participation with regards to his sporting choices, simply because D came to lacrosse much later in his HS career.  M and I were on athletic boards, M has done websites for most, I have volunteered to be the team mom or “Athletic Director”, depending on the needs of each program in which our boys belonged.  I am still the Athletic Director (scheduler) for Richmond Shock Lacrosse, simply because I’ve been doing the job for the past 5 years and just can’t seem to (want to) hand it off.  Sports can be a business, but they can also be a saving grace that allow parents to do the “behind the scenes” work and still remain supportive of their childrens’ efforts.

We may gripe and whine about all the travel we have done, and have yet to do, but I would never trade it for an extra hour of sleep.  I know this hectic chaos has a lifespan and will all-too-soon become a memory.  Being on the sidelines of our boys games is a privilege.  It’s a gift to be able to see our boys do something they love, even if they don’t ever make it to the field on any given day.  Seeing D on the sidelines, bolstering his friends and helping to coach them in their efforts, is worth the lack of sleep.  He’s going to graduate in a few short weeks and this too will be  part of his past.  I just can’t imagine being anywhere else but AT THE GAME.

I’ll sleep in next week… for now, it’s off to the lacrosse game of the moment!  Go Hood Blazers… we believe in you and WE SUPPORT YOU!

 

Writing about my (then) volunteer postition at a winery… January 2, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized,VA Wine,Volunteering — beatitudesofmylife @ 3:30 pm

From August 2011:  Thoughts about working at a winery…

I volunteer at the James River Cellars winery.  It’s almost laughable until you realize just how much I love working at this place.  I work when it fits my schedule, I teach people about the wines we offer at our winery, and I get paid in “wine dollars” for the hours that I’m there.  It’s the perfect job for me.  I started visiting wineries with my best friend about 2 years ago when she gifted me with a wine tasting/tour and lunch at a nearby winery.  This seemingly small event opened up an entirely new world to me.

Wine had always been something of a mystery to me.  I’d have a great-tasting wine somewhere and then search in vain to find something similar in my price range at the grocery store.   Visiting wineries started to take some of the mystery out of what I liked in the wines I enjoyed.  I learned about tannins (I don’t like strong ones), dry/sweet/off-dry wines (I’m somewhere in the middle, depending on the season), and oak vs stainless steel casks (I typically like stainless but can enjoy light oak).  The difference from one winery to another can be like traveling between different countries.   They all make wine, but each wine maker puts his or her own spin on things to make them unique.    Add to that the impact caused by the weather on individual vintages (the year a wine is made) and you have another reason to visit your favorite wineries at least once a year!  It was a lot to absorb as I started learning about wines, but I’ve found out some wonderful tips that I’d like to share.

  • You don’t have to be an expert in wine to know what wines are good.  If a wine tastes good to YOU, that’s all that is really important.
  • At a winery, as in life, the only truly “stupid” question is the one that you don’t ask.  TALK with the person pouring the wines at your tasting and ask questions.  If they don’t know the answer, or aren’t willing to find out the answer for you, then you don’t ever have to return.
  • Wine is for EVERYONE (of legal age, of course).  Red wine is not just an “adult wine” and Sweet wine is not just for “Kids or beginners”.    Each person has their own unique taste buds and their own preferences.   If your friend’s choice doesn’t coincide with yours, then buy your own bottles.  You don’t HAVE to share.
  • Do a little homework and visit wineries that offer tastings.  The people pouring for you should be able to share their personal experiences with the wines being offered and give you suggestions on wines you will enjoy at their winery.

When I do a wine tasting at James River Cellars, you get MY opinion of the wines we offer.  I will tell you how I’ve used our wines…. I’ll share recipes…. I’ll give you my nicknames for some of my personal favorites (Our Hanover Red wine is my “I have to call and talk with my mom for an hour” wine)…. and I’ll try and make your visit to our winery as memorable as I would want it to be if I were on the other side of the bar.  Come visit James River Cellars winery (it’s on Rt 1 in Glen Allen, VA, just north of the Virginia Center Commons mall) and see for yourself.  Hopefully I’ll be the one doing the pouring for you!

Cheers!

Alison Althouse of James River Cellars Winery

 

 
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