The summer of smelling roses and taking an information diet

by Blagica Bottigliero

If someone stopped me a year ago to say that I would lose my mother in law, close shop on my successful business, move the entire family to Minneapolis to work for a big retailer, then change gears for a few months to regroup, I would have slapped you silly.

But that’s exactly what happened.

I spent the last few months truly breathing, decompressing and worrying only about only the present day.  I decided that the smallest, stupidest things were taking unnecessary space in my mind. I knew that I needed to shift my thinking to the topics which truly mattered – both personally and professionally. 

I drove around Minneapolis to run errands only when necessary – I preferred to walk with the kids or to ride my bike. I became obsessed with my FitBit and getting serious about my health and physical strength. Moving here changed the way we see being out and about. Maybe it’s because of the townhouse configuration of our old place in Chicago. Maybe it was the congestion of getting to a popular beach or walking path. I do know it’s because we are surrounded by images of people, numerous ages and walks of life, running, biking, walking, paddle boarding or kayaking. Minneapolis is consistently named one of the fittest cities in the U.S. Now I know why.

I changed the way I consumed information. I stopped endlessly checking my Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds. I continued to like items here and there, but I considerably dropped my liking activity. I didn’t get so caught up and heated on issues and topics that didn’t relate to me. I didn’t obsess about someone’s vacation pictures and wonder why I wasn’t on vacation. I didn’t obsess over someone’s recent glamour shot, notice their drop in weight and wonder how quickly I could match their frame. I didn’t go down the Facebook Click Hole and look up distant friends and wonder who they married, where they live and what they are up to.

It just didn’t matter.

When it comes to email consumption, I recently incorporated a change  - batch email checking. Today, I only check email in the early morning and late afternoon. My auto responder has my contact information for any immediate things that require my response.  I can see my texts right away and I use Google Voice for my voicemails. This minor change freed up so much wasted time with looking down at my phone. Speaking of phone…

I am maximizing my Google voice commands. Everything from driving directions, walking directions, sending texts to my husband, language translations, checking on flights  and weather reports for the kids’ daily outfits, ‘Ok Google Now’ is a common phrase in our house.  An additional perk? Google Now knows when I’m driving or riding my bike. The sensor is the Moto X picks up motion and gives me the option to have my texts read to me via phone. I can then send texts back to the sender and never look at my phone.

I thoroughly enjoyed a glass of wine at lunch. Not everyday, but at least two days a week, I incorporated a European way of dining and enjoyed some red or bubbly over lunch. No regrets. I didn't judge myself or put myself in the Mama Needs a Glass of Wine category. 

I ate really well.  Thanks to our CSA, our full share box is ENORMOUS.  Michael and I have been doing the best we can with new recipes and ideas to use up the copious amounts of Swiss chard, kale, corn, basil, pea shoots, onions, beets, zucchinis, etc. We've eating dinner as a family every single night. And took our time. 

I talked to people. Not just Gchat or Facebook chat but REAL conversations.  I caught up with old friends and had some long conversations with industry pals.  I interviewed friends who were writers, agency execs, brand side citizens and everything in between. I wanted to know the work they questioned and the work they enjoyed. What holes existed?  Where could I best take my digital background and merge it with social technologies.  This research paid off. I start my new gig on 9/2. More details on that soon.

I read actual books. I zipped through ‘Four Hour Work Week’ and ‘Remote’. I’m still working my way through Mrs. Clinton’s latest.

Most importantly, I spent solid time with my family. When it comes to my kids, I found the days most fun when they would get in the bathtub and massive dirt rings were left behind. Every night, I meticulously packed up their ‘swimming bag’ (which is really a fabric shopping back from Stanley’s) with bathing suits, towels and all equipment necessary for visiting one of Minneapolis’ lake beaches.

Our smallest is slowly making words, but still having a tough time communicating. I had more time to sit on the floor with him, roll around, point out objects and repeat their corresponding words. The cuddly little boy I saw reach up and kiss me hello after I drove home from the corporate gig was sharing his little, cheesy Kiss Me grin at a moments’ notice. I indulged in post nap milk drinking cuddles and breathed through those moments of public tantrums.

Our little girl isn’t so little anymore. This was the summer when she felt comfortable riding a bike with training wheels and could finally steer her scooter around corners. It was the summer she decided that her nails should be painted like mine. It was also the summer that nightgowns were more appropriate than regular jammies.

As far as my husband, we reconnected. We were always connected – heck all four of us moved here in March. If you know Michael, you know that he’s quiet. Add the element of his mother passing away, moving to a completely new town and getting the kids adjusted to a new city – it’s a mountain to take on. Michael took it all in and quietly found his way in Minneapolis, toting the kids to every grocery store, bakery and park in sight. Once I was spending more time at home, I made sure Michael got time to himself and supported his mini getaways to see his boys. We’re all happier as a result.

I am thankful for these last few months. It’s changed the way I see work, family and life. I’ve chosen to put my professional time into an area that is growing, needed and speaks to what I believe in. I have confirmation that the way my husband I see the importance of culture and travel WITH kids isn’t as abnormal than we think. Downsizing back to one car and putting effort into creating experiences for our family are of the utmost importance to us.

We are taught to work and work and work and then retire. I know now that it is possible to create a professional situation where you can take mini vacations here and there. Whether you are an entrepreneur or an all-in corporate citizen, I’ve gotten first hand stories from both types of workers who’ve managed to find their happy places.

The best way I can sum up this summer is from my daughter. When asked what she thought of our summer, Lily coyly replies, ‘It is the summer of us.’

Indeed it is, Lily.