Mama McFee’s First Vlog

Life is crazy, really crazy.  For all of us.  And since I have not had time to write a blog, I thought I would try my hand at producing my first vlog.

Please check it out and let me know what you think.

Happy Musing!

Mama McFee misses weeMcFee

Today is a rough day.  I know we all have them, and it’s not as rough as many others out there in the world are suffering.  But for me, it’s a rough day.

My heart aches.  Perhaps it is the gloomy weather in Chicago.  Perhaps it is the uncertainity that is at home with Ellie fighting sleep and eating.  Perhaps it is all of the projects I am buried under at work.  Probably all of the above.

Rough days happen to all of us.  As someone that suffers with anxiety and depression, when one hits, it can feel almost debilitating.  I am struggling to focus, struggling to stay awake, struggling to just sit up and be.

Ironically, this is happening during a week where I have been trying some new things.  Undertaking a FitBit challenge and beating my step goals.  Working on healthier eating.  Cutting out wine and sticking to water.  Trying to get sleep and not overwork myself.  All of the things which should be doing the opposite for my mind.  All of the things which should be boosting my system, causing those endorphins to fire, filling me with energy.

Yet here I am.

I am writing this to help those who do not understand mental illness to get a glimpse into what it is like.  How no matter what, some days are just rough days.  Some days your mind wins out.  Your anxiety cannot be stopped.  The meds don’t work.  And you feel frustrated.  Angry that you have been doing everything right.  Following the doctor’s orders, saying your affirmations, cleansing your system.  Yet, here you are.

I have never been one that did not take mental illness seriously.  Since being diagnosed with clinical depression when I was 19 after losing my grandmother, I know how real it is.  I know I have a chemical imbalance.  I know that it is genetic for me.  I know that some days are just going to be rough days.

But on days like these, I push myself more.  I get up. I walk in the rain to work.  I eat my fruit and take calls.  And I am lucky enough to start this day with positive thinkers.  People who believe the world can still be saved – whether it be from environmental or human causes – the world is not lost to us.  We can make things better.  We can come together and build a world that is strong.  We can find the people that want to work along side us.

On these tough days, when I don’t have my weeMcFee to bring me out;  when I don’t have a warm hug to give me extra energy;  when I’m low and need a push.  On these days, I am grateful that I work for an organization that still believes.  That I have energetic people around me who can be authentic with me.  People that are not perfect and give me permission to not be perfect.

It’s a rough day.  But I am geared up to fight it.  To push through and show my smile.  Because I know the world needs me to not give up.  There are many battles to fight and many people that need those battles to be fought for them.  Today they are my strength.  Today they are the reason I trudged through rain.  They are the reason I will still try to hit 10,000 steps.  They are the reason to smile and be thankful.

“Every day may not be good, but there’s something good in every day.” –Unknown

Mama McFee says #BeBoldForChange

A year ago tomorrow I created “Mama McFee’s Musings”, a place where I hoped to share my journey in life.  A place where I would be myself, for better or worse.  A place where I could hopefully provide some insight, education and different thinking.

It’s been a busy year!  I didn’t post as much as I would have liked, but I am thankful for all of those that supported what I did put out into the universe.

So here we are again, approaching International Women’s Day, and here I am again, making a pledge to do my part to help shape the world into the beautiful, loving, supportive place I know it can be.

The past few months have been particularly confusing, frustrating and uncertain for so many individuals throughout the world.  Not just women and not just Americans.  Our world grows ever more separated by politics, religion, gender, and ethnicity.  And it breaks my heart.

Yet I continue to be hopeful.  I continue to be positive.  I continue to choose to see love.  But I also know that there is much work to be done.

My path has put me in the space of working towards equality for women.  But equality for women is just the start.  Research and statistics continue to show the power of investing in women and girls in communities across the globe.  Companies continue to realize the value of women in the c-suite and the boardroom.  Yet women are still not equal.

From pay to healthcare to reproductive rights, women still have an uphill road to climb and therefore, my work is not done.

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day with the theme #BeBoldForChange.  At the same time organizers of the Women’s March have called for “A Day Without a Woman” strike.  I know for many that these are controversial issues.  I know for some, they may not understand what this is all about.  I know for others, they may be the lucky few to have never dealt with what is feels like to be treated unequally.

However you come to this conversation, I think and hope that we can all agree that #ItsTime to #BeBoldForChange!  We need to dig deep into our hearts, to find our love and compassion.  To realize that this is so much more than a political issue, but an issue of respect and fairness.  Of how we want to show up in this world.  Of what we want to show our children.  Of the world we want our children to grow up in.

I want a world for my daughter where she has equal rights no matter what.  That she is never looked down upon for being a woman.  Never misunderstood for who she loves.  Never questioned for her decisions around children.

I also want her to grow up with compassion for all.  To see love in all forms and think it is beautiful.  To cherish those around her for what they bring to this world.  To see beauty in every person she meets until proven otherwise. To love with all her heart and be proud of who she is and the decisions she makes.

I believe we need to and we can #BeBoldForChange.

I challenge you to think about it.  To look beyond yourself and to think of all the women around the world.  To understand and agree our work is not finished.  To do it for your daughters, your mothers, your grandmothers, your sisters – for yourself.

Let’s #BeBoldForChange!  Let’s do it now because #ItsTime!

Happy International Women’s Day and Happy Musing!

To make a commitment to #BeBoldForChange, please visit: https://www.internationalwomensday.com/BeBold

To join NEW and our commitment to drive 50/50 gender parity – #ItsTime: http://www.ournewfuture.org/

 

 

 

Mama McFee says “Enough”

Happy Holidays!  Or are they?!  Over the years I have asked myself this every time the holiday season comes around.

Personally, I love the holidays.  I love the decorations, the music, the treats, and the family time.  Being together, feeling the love and being thankful for all that we have.

Ok – I can’t even type that without a little chuckle or sneer.  Sure, right!  That’s exactly what the holidays are about?!  At least in our minds that is what we tell ourselves.  But what is the reality that I see these days?

Stress!  Stress is the reality.  Guilt!  Guilt is the other reality!  And both lead us all to indulgence.  Don’t get me wrong, I grew up in a house of indulgence and at the time, as a child, it was amazing.  But over the years, it started to just be embarrassing.  The amount of presents.  The stress I saw all of the parties and gift buying put on my mother.  The guilt she felt that she wasn’t doing enough for everyone, and then the frustration when people didn’t appreciate it.

And then I met my husband.  He grew up in probably the more traditional view of all of this.  The days of the large gift from Santa.  Single gifts for everyone.  The large family that drew names.  Sure there was stress over cooking and managing, and even the gift giving was nerve-wracking I am sure, but it was so different than my reality.

So for years we have been back in forth.  Finally getting my family to all agree to no presents.  Once the nieces and nephews were grown, the gift giving stopped and my small family focused on other things, like holiday trips and giving to charity.  And in theory it all seemed to be the right move.  No more worrying over the perfect gift, no more “great, what do I do with this thing” after opening a present.  That stress was gone.

But now the guilt has set in and a new level of stress has been put in it’s place.  The stress of guilt.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I suffer from depression and anxiety.  It’s a genetic disposition, but worsened by all of the factors that impacted me growing up.  Mostly by the fact that I’m an only child and by my personality.  While everyone takes on a level of wanting their family happy and making sure they are taken care of, I take it to the extreme.  As the main focal point for my parents, and in a family that has many layers now (step parents, etc.), I have allowed the stress and guilt of not being there for my family over take me, and I now have fallen back into indulgence.

Over the past year, I have indulged.  While one trip to Disney would be enough for most folks and a day visit would be ok for people like us that live close by, I planned 6 mini Disney vacations.  Six!  And treated each trip as if they were vacations, with the goodies and indulgences, all with the idea that I was making up for my guilt.  I indulged over Mother’s Day and birthdays with dinners and visits.  I indulged during the hurricane when my daughter was upset about not being home.  I indulged because of guilt.  A guilt that is normal.  A guilt that everyone feels, but a guilt that my anxiety makes seems unconquerable.

So, with the help of my husband, we have said “enough”.  We cleaned out my daughter’s room of all the indulgences she never played with and the over abundance of “stuffies” stashed in closets.  We rethought Christmas and she will be getting a couple of large gifts and a handful of small ones.  We have cleaned out our home of the excess and are getting back to simplicity.  We are setting our “non-negotiables” with family and hoping that both myself and all of them can stick to it.  I will admit, none of this has been easy.  I cried wondering if the few items at Christmas would be “enough”.  I cried at saying goodbye to items I had held onto in boxes for 30 years.  I cried at the money I spent on things my daughter never used.  I cried.

And, the guilt is still there.  Deep inside.  It’s there when my daughter won’t speak to me because I’m working when she gets home from school.  It’s there when I hear my mom’s voice or see her face on FaceTime and see her disappoint that her time will be limited with my daughter.  It’s there when I know my father is struggling with her life as transgender and just needs to know she is loved.  It’s there when I have to leave my husband for a week to care for my daughter while I travel for work.  It’s all there, all the time!

So again,  I am saying “enough”.  Enough to the guilt, enough to the stress, enough to the frustration and anger and the over indulgence it leads to.  I want to embrace every moment as special, not just the big ones.  I want to be in the moment, not worrying if it’s “enough”.  I want to know at the end of each night when I lay my head down that I truly did my best, I did “enough”.

Enough!  As 2016 comes to a close and 2017 is knocking at the door, I vow to continue to say “enough”.  To remember that I truly am doing the best that I can.  That my family should and will love me for that.  That through my strength of prioritizing, they will see how I am taking care of all of them in a different way.  That it will be “enough”.

I challenge everyone to try “enough”.  To remember what the true spirit of the holiday season is (not just the religious meaning or gift giving).  To focus on your family, on memories, on spending time.  For that is the greatest gift we can give anyone.

Wishing you and your family a wonderful TIME this holiday season, filled with “enough”!

Happy Musing!

 

Mama McFee is “ALL IN TO WIN” for weeMcFee!

ELF Group 2016If you do not know by now, I work for an organization called NEW.  An organization I have been passionate about for 13 years as both a member and now staff.  My passion for equality in all things has no bounds.  It has always driven me.  From the moment I put on my first pair of glasses at 8 years old and realized I was different, I became passionate about respecting differences.

NEW’s mission is quite simple:  To advance women, grow business  and transform our industry’s workplace through the power of our community.

Ok – so maybe it’s not that simple to achieve – but the concept seems so obvious.  I have never questioned why NEW needs to exist, I know.  I have heard the stories from my own mother and others of her generation. We all know the history and can be so grateful that those days are gone.  But what exists in their place?  The gender wage gap still exists.  While women represent most of today’s graduates, women CEOs are less than 10%.  Most maternity leave is unpaid.  The list goes on.

But I am not a complainer.  I am a doer.  So early on, I began doing.  And along the way, I found NEW.

At NEW I found my community.  I found others like me.  I was able to show my passion and have my skills be groomed as to how to be a change agent.  But no journey is easy.  Along the way I have stumbled, and my NEW family and mentors have always been there.  NEW itself has had growing pains in understanding how to help drive our community along this path.  So last year we found our new compass, and this we year set on our new course.

WE WILL ACCEPT NO LESS THAN GENDER PARITY IN OUR INDUSTRY!

A powerful statement, with a powerful organization and powerful community behind it.

I am part of the NEW community.  I am a wife and mother.  I have a toddler daughter, and I want her to never be paid less because of her gender.  I want her to be able to work without limits.  I want her to know she has a strong community that believes in the power of everyone!IMG_8155

And so, once a month I pack a bag and leave her for a week to focus on this work.  And in September, I will leave her to attend the most important event for NEW this year, our National Leadership Summit.  At this Summit we will celebrate 15 years of NEW.  At this Summit we will discuss the issues, hear from all generations and life stages, listen and learn.  We will be ALL IN TO WIN!

So as this Mama McFee packs her bags to leave her weeMcFee for a week with 1,100 industry professionals in Orlando, I ask you…will you be there?  Do you believe in no less than GENDER PARITY?  Are you ALL IN TO WIN?

Join me and let’s travel this road together.  See you there!

Steph sig

To register for the 2016 NEW Leadership Summit.

To find out more about NEW’s Future Fund and our gender parity pnitiative, please watch this video.

 

Mama McFee is a daughter too!

050With all of the hustle and bustle that is life.  With the constant chasing, cleaning and collapsing into bed that is parenthood.  With everything that adulthood brings, we too often forget that we ourselves are someone’s child.

As I am learning with my now 20 month old, the push for independence begins early.  It’s almost as if once we are cut from the womb, the rest of our lives are spent pushing against our parents to live independently.  That is until the scary monsters of our dreams come out or we fall and scratch our knee.  Then we go running back to the safety of their arms.  To the familiarity that is the warmth of their love.  And this, as I have found, is no matter what age we are.

Yes – I am a daughter.  I am a child of two parents who loved me.  Who did the best they could for me with the tools they had.  Who I fought against so many times to be independent.  And who I always ran home to when things got scary.

But in 1997, the known arms of my parents changed.  They changed in a way I was not prepared for and I had never had exposure to.  That year my dad revealed he was transgender.  At the time, I didn’t even know what that meant.  Transsexual, gay…those where the only familiar words in my vocabulary.  And when it was all revealed and understood, I rebelled.  I was angry.  I was hurt.  I didn’t understand.  I thought I was being punished for something.  I felt like my dad had been taken away from me.

For years I was angry.  Even though I was raised in a house where I was taught to accept and respect all people as long as they caused no harm to society, I felt I couldn’t put those morals into place in this situation.  This was personal, and my world was completely turned upside down.  Despite years of wanting to go my own way, be independent from my parents, I found myself longing for the familiarity of the home they had built together.  For the sanctuary they had created for me.  For my parents as they were.

Fortunately, I met my now husband who had exposure to a trans friend, and who helped me understand more fully what it was all about.  Over years of research, of gaining medical understanding, and of spending time with my father, I finally began to ACCEPT.

I write all of this because education truly is freeing.  Transgender is not a choice.  It is who the person is.  Who they have always been.  The way they were born. But because of the lack of acceptance in society for those things which we do not understand;  because of interpretations that need a second glance, transgender individuals are not accepted.  And it breaks my heart.

As the daughter of a transgender parent, I now want to protect and fight for my father.  Just as he fought and protected me as a child.  While the safe haven of my father’s arms are not the same, and while deep inside the struggle over the loss of the person I knew growing up never goes away, I am learning to accept the person that my father is today.  It was not a choice, it was determined while in the womb.

Unfortunately for my father and for so many other trans individuals, the world is not a welcoming place.  And that makes me desperately sad.  I was raised with faith, but a faith that taught me to love and to accept and to give everyone a chance at happiness.

And that is why I fight!  I fight for equality!  I fight for happiness!  I fight for love!

I am asking my community to take a moment and to read.  To get some scientific facts before you make a judgment.  I respect everyone’s rights to opinions, but until you can knowingly do so with the facts, until you walk a day in my shoes, until you understand the hurt you are causing to another human being – you are making a judgment based on the unknown.IMG_1747

I carry so many titles in this world that I am proud of.  And daughter is just one of them.  But it is where it all began for me, the first title I held.  And the one I promise not to forget no matter how old I am.

I am the daughter of a transgender parent.  And I am proud of the courage of the trans community!

Mama McFee Says “No”

IMG_0562How ironic.  Over the years I have so often been told that I need to learn how to say “no”.  Yes, I am one of those.  One of those that so quickly jumps in to a project, sometimes without asking the right questions.  The one that says “yes” when no one else will.  Not necessarily a “yes woman”…oh wait!  “YES” I am.

So who would have ever thought I just had to have a toddler to learn how to not only say, but shout, sing, and repeat that one little word more times than I can count in a day.

Oh yes, we have now crossed into 19 months, and I see the visions of terrible two’s lurking on our doorstep.  “No” has not only become a constant in my vocabulary, but my darling #weeMcFee has made it a favorite word, as so many parents predicted she would.  I laugh at how everything is “no”, even when we know she means “yes”.  How ironic that we all start out as “no people” and some of us make that 180 degree shift.

But I find that learning to say “no” to my little Ellie-Bean has taught me a lot about the power of that one little word.  While it doesn’t always work on her, I have learned more and more to say “no” because of her.  Whether it is no to a late night call, or no to work travel – motherhood has given me the strength to do what so many mentors thought I could never learn…to just say no!

So many elements of motherhood are powerful.  The bond, the most amazing love you have ever felt, the most amazing worry and the most amazing joy.  But the empowerment I have been given by this little human to finally put my family first above all else.  To weigh everything according to her happiness and her father’s.  To push back without fear.  It’s the most amazing feeling on earth.

So tonight, as I am two days into my forty-first year, listening to my sweet baby say “no Mama” into the monitor as she fights sleep, I celebrate the strength she has given me.  I celebrate embracing my life.  Stopping to smell the flowers, to take a walk to the market and to share a bedtime story.

As the song says “this is my fight song, take back my life song”…so don’t be surprised if you hear me say “NO”!  Especially if you throw your cup on the floor.  LOL!

Happy Musing!

Mama McFee is Motivated

Ellie HeartHappy International Women’s Day!  If you do not know, March is Women’s History Month and today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day.  It’s a time to celebrate our past, our present and our future.  But to me, it is so much more!

Today, I start a new phase.  I am following my heart – as my daughter inspires me to do every day.  I am starting a blog about being “Mama McFee”.  Please note, this is not a blog necessarily about being a mother, a wife, a daughter…etc.  But for me, it will be a blog about passion, about motivation, about how #ItsTime to stand up and make some real changes.  Yes, I’m latching on to my company’s #ItsTime movement and as a leader and a woman, I feel it IS time for me to let my voice be heard…well, read.

So let’s start with some facts about me.  I want to use this blog to share my journey, to muse on life and to maybe start some conversations with the world community.

I must admit, I did look up the word “muse” and here is what it said:  to think about something carefully or thoroughly;  to think or say (something) in a thoughtful way.  That’s my goal – although, we shall see if I achieve it.

Here are 15 facts to get us going (it just worked out to be 15) – and remember, the best thing anyone can do for another human is to not judge what they don’t understand or have not experienced.  (Just needed to put that out there!  :-))

  1. Yes – I am a woman.  Ok, so now that we have that understood.
  2. I am a daughter, a wife, a mother, a sister-in-law, a friend (I hope), a colleague and a boss.
  3. I am 40 – well 41 in 20 days. But who is counting?!  I just want birthday cake.
  4. I have crazy nuances – I will not refer to them as OCD, though others might.  For example: a chair on my patio is not aligned properly with the patio table. It bothers me and I will have to go straighten it.  Actually, let me go do that now…
  5. I was married at 24 – which was old amongst my friends in the south.  Yes, now I realize just how young I was.
  6. I married someone from Australia.  Yes – he has a great accent.  Yes – it is/was romantic.  But he is from another country, so there are struggles.  Despite what all Americans think, there are countries even more awesome than ours.
  7. I had my first child, a daughter, at 39.  It was via IVF; it was only one round.  She is my miracle, my everything.  And I’m exhausted!  What mother isn’t?
  8. NO – I will not be having other children, and I am content with that.  Everyone asks, so I want to get that straight from the beginning.
  9. I am from Alabama. I went to Auburn University (not Alabama) and yes, I love college football.
  10. My BS is in Fashion Merchandising (no it is not a degree in shopping); and I have an MS in Consumer Affairs.  Yes – they are real degrees and I am proud of them!
  11. I suffer from depression, but who doesn’t in this world; and I struggle with an anxiety disorder.  That’s a tough one to put out there, as we so often hide these things.  But it’s something I want to talk about in my “Musings”.
  12. I did grow up with educated/intelligent parents that both worked VERY hard.  I had a “nanny” that kept me in the afternoons until I was 18.  I had a car at 16 – so yes, I had things, lots of them.  I was spoiled.  But I also understand hard work and know what it is like to lose almost everything.
  13. My father is a transgendered female.  I found out when I was 22.  I did not handle it well.  And yes, I accept, but still struggle.  Not everyone is Caitlyn Jenner with millions of dollars and a TV show.  But I am VERY proud of her and am working on building a relationship to teach my daughter acceptance of all people.
  14. I have a fabulous job.  Even on days I hate it, I love it!  Most people do not understand what I do.  But I know I can make a difference, and that means everything.
  15. I know and accept that I am NOT perfect…well, most days.  Yes – I try to be wonder woman every day!  It’s what we do!

And so, there we have it!  That is me. The things I celebrate;  the things I hate;  the things I cannot change.

On this 2016 International Women’s Day, pause and reflect on ALL women that make up this amazing world we are blessed to live in.

Look at yourself in the mirror and do what my daughter does – kiss yourself!  There is nothing wrong with that.  It’s awesome!  I know, I’ve tried it.

Come with me on this journey if you like.  Share with me.  Take me on your journey.

Let’s “Muse” together!!!

To my daughter on your 1st birthday.

Today is August 26th, the Eve of your first birthday and I find myself overwhelmed with emotion. While excited to start your second year of life, I cannot believe this first year is coming to an end.

A year ago today, I sat in an hospital bed eager to hold you in my arms. I don’t remember as much as I would like due to the drugs I was given, but I do remember the first time your skin touched mine. The first latch and the first time you looked into my eyes.

Becoming your mother has been the greatest gift I have ever received. The long nights, the many tears I shed the first few months, the fears that I would never be good enough, are now all distant memories. With your hugs, your kisses and the sound of the word “mama” coming from your sweet lips, I have settled into my role and am relishing in it.

The simple touch of your hand is enough to make the troubles of the world melt away. Hearing your joyous laughter is enough to make the entire world seem brighter. The sight of your tears, breaks my heart more than I ever thought it could ache.

I see the world with different eyes, those of a mother.

I know I am not perfect. I know I will make mistakes. I know that we will argue. But at the end of the day, I will always be your mother until I draw my final breath, and that makes everything ahead a journey I am looking forward to sharing with you.

On the Eve of the end of this first year, my wish for you is that you always see the world with the same delight you see it now. That you never loose your ability to express your feelings, especially love. And that embrace your passions no matter what.

I love you my darling daughter. I thank you for loving me, your mother. And I cannot wait to watch you grow into the beautiful person you are already becoming.

Congratulations on your first year of life and wishing you many, many more!

First Christmas…Done and Got the t-shirt!

x-mas dayAll I can say is WOW! I think I’ve been in a constant state of shock and wonderment for an entire month now. This Christmas thing is pretty intense. From the lights, to the people, to the clothes, to those present things…it’s been a whirlwind of a month.

Aside from Christmas, I have also had a busy month since mastering the art of rolling over before Thanksgiving. I now roll over in all directions, and like to keep mommy and daddy guessing which way I will go next. I have also started laughing and cooing much more and sometimes I just crack myself up with giggles. The week of December 8th, I started to work more on crawling and right before Christmas I figured out I have to pull my legs and bottom in the air to scoot. With a little more practice, I know I’ll get this figured out. Sitting up has also been a priority for me, and while I don’t have it completely mastered, I am starting to really work my stomach muscles with trying to pull up. Mommy bought me a new chair that I love, with toys and a tray. It’s so nice to not have to lay around all the time.

This month also brought my first time away from mommy when she had to go on a trip for work. I still am not sure where she went, but I had a nice week with my daddy and was such a good girl. I slept through the night almost every night and had lots of daddy-Ellie playtime. By the time mommy got home, I was so excited I could not sleep much for a day or so.

Nana and Poppie came a few days before Christmas and mommy put me in all sorts of new outfits and took my picture almost every day. It was tiring, but I tried to give her smiles each time since she and Nana kept saying how pretty I was.  Be sure to check out all of my great outfits – Ellie’s Holiday Photo Shoot.

By the time Christmas arrived, I was already pretty excited and struggling to sleep every night. I just didn’t want to miss anything as I knew they were having fun when I was asleep. On Christmas Eve we went up the street to the lobby of the hotel where we live and they introduced me to this person called Santa. Supposedly he travels the world bringing toys and I need to be a good girl so I will get presents. I received a nice letter from him before we met, saying he was so excited to add me to his list this year.  He seemed ok, but I think I like my Poppie just as well…his beard is better.

PresentsOn Christmas morning I woke up to mommy and daddy’s smiles and cuddles and all sorts of pretty presents from Santa and Nana & Poppie. It didn’t take me long to figure out what a present was and that you have to rip off paper to get to the goody inside. After a while I was giving mommy direction on how to do it and trying to get her to do it faster. I loved my presents but have decided that two things are my favorite. A Hello Kitty block from Santa and a pelican with a large orange squeaky nose from Nana.

Again, WOW! I think I need another nap just writing it all down. Tomorrow I will turn four months old. Mommy says this will be another big month with lots of new things. I’m excited, but I think I’ll go grab a nap so I’m ready.

Wishing everyone a wonderful Christmas!

Love & cuddles,

Sleepy baby