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being an introvert, letters, Tim

For Claudia

Recently, Tim left his old work home for a new work home.  This new adventure has proven to be a great fit, all the details lining up for him professionally and personally.  All four of us are pinching ourselves daily at how well the transition has gone.  I’m not going to lie though, both Tim and I are still a little anxious, waiting for some unforeseen ball to drop.  Pessimism is alive and well in the Pell Household, but we are furiously trying to push it out the door so we can enjoy this new ride.


Going into this transition, we both knew we would mourn the loss of his old work team.  They have all become family to us.  Initially, they made the first move and graciously ushered all four of us into their lives even though they didn’t have to give us any light of day.  I have a feeling that, in general, this doesn’t happen quite often in the corporate world.  They are still our family, and our love for them hasn’t changed, but we will miss our easy access to all of them.  


These team members hail from all over the world.  Costa Rica, India, South Africa, Scotland, Ireland, Luxembourg, China, Japan and of course, the U.S.  All of them taught us invaluable lessons and we experienced irreplaceable adventures with them.  They gave us a world view and world experience; we will be forever indebted to them for sharing that with us.  Along with us, they watched our boys grow up.  They let them jump and bounce behind them down the cobblestone roads of Luxembourg, Germany and Amsterdam. We celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, and professional milestones together.  And even though Tim won’t technically be part of the team anymore, all four of us will be cheering them all on from the sidelines.  


The awe-inspiring force of nature who leads this whole ragamuffin band of personalities is Claudia.  She is humble and kind and would never brag about herself or self promote.  I wanted to let the whole world know how phenomenal she is, and what better way to do that than post it on the interwebs for the whole world to see.  So, Claudia, here’s to you.




I’m going to attempt to put into words the gratitude, awe and love I feel for you, so here goes.  It is inevitable, all the words that follow will fall short.  My feelings toward you and what you have done for Tim and our family are too giant to be contained on a page.  But I will try because you deserve to know at least a fraction of how much you have impacted our entire family.


From day one you were always more than the “boss.”  You saw Tim, truly saw him, for all his strengths, weaknesses, creativity and potential.  You saw him as more than just an employee or a direct report or even a fellow team member.  You saw more and you brought to light bits and pieces even he couldn’t see.  He could let his sarcastic humor flow freely around and you let him use it to strengthen your team as a whole.  You weren’t afraid to look to him for his people reading skills.  Just like you, he knows how to uncover others’ hidden strengths and develop the potential he sees.  He always looked to you for your calm, confident, steady light.  You weren’t intimidated by him, most people are by the way, and that’s where they get it wrong.  You didn’t mind him being bold and blunt because you are refreshingly the same.  You are confident in yourself and leadership capabilities so you don’t mind if someone excels, you are fueled by it, as a leader should be.  You poured your logical encouragement into him and he flourished under your precise direction.  You didn’t back down when his stubborn streak showed up either; you kept pushing through, reminding him of a better way.


Tim always described your leadership style as “minds on, hands off” and that’s what he needed to be motivated and to create and to lead others.  In my opinion, that kind of people management is the best kind.  You made space for new ideas, creative solutions and the innovative systems.  You didn’t care how it got done, just as long as it got done.  You always checked in to see how you could help in case he was stuck, always offering a kind affirmation or gentle suggestion.  You supported him so he could support others. The trickle down effect worked brilliantly.  Through your example you taught him how to be an effective leader.  You encouraged his innovations without any hint of micromanagement.  You weren’t afraid to push him or  gently remind him of areas where he needed to devote more energy.  You weren’t afraid to give feedback to him, or even receive some from him.  Your confidence in yourself, and in him, poured out and colored all your work.  All of his projects have your name watermarked on them.  All along the way, iron sharpened iron, just as both of you needed.


While you led him, you simultaneously built trust.  He could always rely on you professionally, knowing you would always be fiercely protective of him and his work.  The mother grizzly has nothing on you.


When you saw Tim, you weren’t single minded.  He wasn’t just a corporate peer, you also saw his other life roles.  Your vision included the boys and I, and that meant the world to me. Yes, Tim worked for you, but you valued his time spent as a husband and dad.  You didn’t see those roles as inhibiting his work life, you knew they enhanced it and you welcomed all of us into your life.  When you saw Tim, you also saw our family.  I know that says volumes about Tim, but it also speaks to your stellar character and investment into his personal life.


Even though I’m grateful for your confidence in Tim, there may have been one time your faith in him was a bit of an overstep.  At least now we both know he can’t be trusted to drive a large vehicle in a foreign country.  Or I guess we now know to get the maximum insurance policy on rental vans.  On second thought, don’t ever let him drive in Europe again.  I won’t either, I promise.  Also, don’t entrust cowbells into his care, he will ship 145 of them to Germany in his carry-on.


Personally, I’m glad I found a kindred spirit who could logically and exactly categorize why we are kindreds through Myers-Briggs letters.  Thank you for introducing me to Susan Cain and sharing in a mutual appreciation for Brene Brown.  Thank you for showing me I’m not the only one who thrives in the stillness.  It’s refreshing to find someone else who is loud in her own quiet.  You showed me that I don’t have to yell to be a strong leader.  Creativity and innovation don’t always need maximum volume.  There is a time and place for the roar, and you don’t shy away from it when necessary, but a clear and quiet voice is heavier.  Thank you for showing me how brave it is to be confidently quiet.  That kind of voice is bold and pierces the soul.  It also makes sure shit. gets. done.  The corporate world, and the world as a whole, needs more voices like yours, never silent, just calmly, courageously leading.


While Tim and I appreciate your presence in our life personally, there is something even greater that I haven’t even touched on yet.  Teaching our boys about feminism and raising them to value both men and women equally is very important to us.  You are our tangible example that women can do anything men do.  Because of you, the boys will grow up thinking it’s old hat to have a woman in leadership, in the corporate world, the tech world, in all the world.  They will know that you don’t have to sacrifice your femininity to lead.  Your femininity is a strength, just as your direct and bold communication and your passion for developing people as whole leaders.  Because of you, when they hear the label, “boss”, they won’t automatically picture a man.  Every single day when you walk into work, you are decreasing their unconscious gender bias. Whatever life path and career they choose, they won’t be intimidated, or God forbid, be demeaned, by a boss who happens to be a woman.  They will remember that their dad thrived under your leadership.  Because of you, they will have high standards for any boss, male or female.  They may not fully realize all of this until they grow up, but Tim and I will keep teaching them and reminding them how we need both men and women in every sector of life, equally.  Gender is just a surface detail, character and strength are what matter in a leader.  You have set the bar high, for all four of us.


So lately, in the Pell Household, we have been mourning the loss of your constant contact in Tim’s daily work life.  We know it’s not really a loss, just a transition to a new adventure, but it sure feels like an empty hole.  I know Tim will continue to learn from you, but now is the time for him to leave your nest.  You showed him the mechanics of how to fly but now comes the scary part of taking that first step off the ledge.  Because of you and all the skills you’ve molded in him, I know he will soar in this next role.  He always will in every step of his career because you showed him how.


It’s also exciting to know that you will continue to develop the leaders already under your care, as well as teach and mold new ones.  Your talent for leading and caring for others needs to keep spreading.  I’m afraid we may have been a bit selfish with you.  If I could have my way, Tim would work for you for the rest of his career, but I know that can’t be.  More people need to see your way; they need to be under your direction.  They need you to push them to the next level.


Thank you for being fiercely loyal.  Thank you for not taking any of Tim’s shit.  Thank you for welcoming Luke, Jack and I.  Thank you for showing us beautiful bits and pieces of Germany.  Thank you for not rolling your eyes when our boys threw a horrific, jet lagged tantrum in the Luxembourg airport.  Thank you for being a strong, brave and kind leader.  Thank you, Claudia, from the deepest part of my heart.


P.S. Thank you for introducing us to “Kaffee and Kuchen.”  Our afternoons will never be the same.

Kaffee und Kuchen 1



adventures in adulthood, Tim

Healthy Messes

Tim and I embarked on a new health adventure.  We have been attempting to add weight lifting into our workout routine.  Now, while I am quite proud of the fact that we have stuck to this for more than two weeks in a row, we are definitely the people who the Gym Rats talk about with their buddies at Happy Hour.  Of course, this is where they drink healthy smoothies that are a funky green color instead of beer, which might actually be called Sad Hour.  We are the weird ones giving certain machines confused looks and staring at our phones while googling “how to do a hammer strength lat pull.”  

More than once we had to humble ourselves and ask for help.  Of course we vetted our prospective teachers by how ripped they appeared.  One of our educators was a smiley lady in her late 40’s.  She regularly does these crazy moves like standing on a dumbbell and balancing, while lifting another weight.  Normally I would conclude that she was probably as confounded as we were, but she had muscles in her legs I never even knew existed.  She had to know what she was doing.  After talking with her a little bit, I found out that she even followed some of the same trainers we follow online.  Muscles? Check.  Gleaning techniques from reputable websites?  Check.  Nice and probably won’t laugh at us?  Check.  She made the cut and we got to ask her about the perfect form for a dead lift.

At one point, I even had a nice older gentlemen come up to me to give unheeded advice.  He told me to widen my stance, “because you’ll get a lot more out of the reps that way.”  Basically, he meant to say, “I’m really sorry you don’t know anything about lifting weights and you look completely ridiculous.  I’ll try to help prevent you from looking like a bona fide idiot, but there’s not much that can be done with your muck.” Instead, he was nice about it.  I was grateful.

This brings me to another point.  Did you know that going to the gym is some sort of secret society?  I didn’t before, but now I’m sure of it.  There is even a secret language, with words like sets, skullcrusher, Smith machine, reps, and so many other things that sound entirely foreign.  In a few months, I’ll probably be able to put down “speaks a second language” on my resume.  

Since we live in a small town, we end up running into people we know lifting heavy things up and putting them down.  We see our neighbors in the weight room, parents who have kids in our kids’ classes frequent the space and we even see some of the same faces at the grocery store.  I’m on the PTSA board with another mom who has the most fantastic delts, biceps and triceps.  I try to spy on her workouts because she must be doing everything right with those arms of hers.  Don’t worry, I don’t stare too much and it’s not THAT weird because I actually know her and talk to her.  On second thought, I might be weird, but she still associates with me. For now at least.  If we are both done with the workout at the same time, we sometimes sit and chat for a few minutes and drink the really bad coffee they serve at the front desk.  The unfortunate part about actually knowing people at the gym is I have to attempt to comb my hair and try not to wear the same smelly shirt three days in a row.  

Tim and I bumble about, but dangit we are determined.  We may or may not have pipe dreams of getting totally jacked, but that would require eliminating our weekly cheat meal that usually turns in to four full days of cheat eating.  We can’t all be perfect.

We may have gone a little beyond our limit because this morning Tim rolled out of bed and whimpered, “Oh, Babe, I think you are going to have to check out my groin.”



“…Wait, are you serious?  You aren’t talking about…”  I was half thinking this was some new form of wooing he was trying out.

“No, Babe, get your mind out of the gutter, I think I have a hernia.”

I spent half the morning googling “symptoms of a hernia.”  After the forty-ninth site, okay, I only looked at two, the light-headedness came and I could feel myself starting to black out.  I threw the computer over to Tim and told him to do his own damn research.  I could not handle this information anymore.  WebMd is not for the weary.

I got some fresh air, uninhibited by medical terms and internal anatomy vocab.  My blood pressure regained some oomph, but I still had my head between my legs, praying my knees wouldn’t buckle when I got up.  I was still immobile when I heard Tim frantically yell from the upstairs bathroom, “Babe!  Come here.  I NEED YOU.”  

I had regained five percent of my composure so I snapped back into the doting nurse wife, but as I bounded up the stairs, my pace slowed.  There was the potential I could be walking into a bathroom with Tim knee-deep in blood and guts.  I imagined gooey red stuff all over the floor and counters, pouring out of unknown wounds.  Internal organs half in Tim’s body and half out.  I could not deal with that.  Someone more qualified, and less faint needed to be here, but I was the only other adult around.  I was his only hope for survival.  So I sucked up my queasiness and continued into the horror scene that was our bathroom.

I tiptoed around the corner and peered in.  A breath of relief deflated my body.  No blood, no organs slipping down the walls.  Tim would live.  Thank.  The.  Lord.  His face, however told a different story.  Drenched in panic and fear, he sat there trying to feel around for parts of his intestines bulging out of his groin/abdominal area.  “I can’t even figure out where it is!!  This is where my hernia was last time, but now the pain is here AND here.  AND HERE!  What if it’s a tumor?  Or cancer.  What am I going to do?  That is it, I’m done.  I am going to die!  I DON”T WANT TO EFFING DIE YET.”

Half listening to his rant, my mind shifted to all the possible diagnoses.  I began to picture punctured spleens and severed livers.  The stars came back, my knees weakened and a cold sweat erupted over my entire body.  My vision clouded as I lay down on the unbloodied floor with my feet up in the air.  Deep breaths, focus, stay conscious!

Please stop right now to imagine the picture.  

My husband, injured and in pain, trying to diagnose himself and thoroughly freaking out.  He’s throwing around terms like surgery, tumors and DEATH.  He can’t figure out exactly where the pain is or where on his body he should be investigating.  Reason and logic have died slow deaths and withered down the bathtub drain.  I can’t hear even him anymore because my skin has turned pallid and gray.  I am sprawled out on the linoleum, propping my feet up on the bathtub.  I incoherently mutter and try to avoid another fainting accident.  That is just one more thing we can’t afford to add to this glorious scene.  I was a mess, Tim was losing his mind.  When were the adults coming to help us?  

We were an absolute freaking jumble.  I don’t think there is help for us.  Ever.

So, obviously, we did not show our faces at the gym today.  Both of us managed to regain some sort of composure.  A miracle, I know. Tim called his doctor and we are hoping an actual grownup educated in a medical school will diagnose it as just a pulled muscle and not a weird thing bulging out of a place it should not.  It’s probably a good thing we are not medically responsible for anyone because that would mean me laying in a corner passed out and Tim spouting off random fatal discoveries.


This going to the gym thing sure is scary.  And really, quite gruesome.  Be careful out there.

deep down, Tim

When He’s Gone

I’m empty.

My soul is depleted.

My brain is fuzzy and my sight is blurry on the edges.

It always goes like this when he’s gone.


The sounds around me are too loud.

My already thin skin becomes like paper.

I turn on the fire and layer up.

It’s cold when he’s gone.


Everybody talks too much.

I only want to hear his voice.

I need the quiet, but then I want him to fill it.

The nausea comes and I want to hide under a heavy blanket.

He needs to come home already.

I’m dying over here.


We are nearing the end of Tim’s six week business travel schedule.  Luckily, he’s been able to come home on the weekends, but it hasn’t been enough.

I need him around always and forever.  I get really low and depressed when he’s gone.  I end up feeling physically sick and I wander around in a daze.  Of course, I put on a smile and brave face for the boys.  They miss him almost as much as I do.  I’m honest with them about missing him, but I don’t let myself stay in bed all day like I feel like doing.  We go through all the normal motions, lunches packed, school drop off, chores, baseball practice and all the other regular stuff.  But it’s not the same.  We need him here with us.

I’ve written before about being depressed and how it cycles around here and there.  I also don’t mind it; it’s part of who I am.  Recently, I’m discovering that I’m proud of my sensitivity.  This essay said it much better than I ever could, but my propensity for ups and downs is a strength.  Yes, it can be a curse at times when I get steamrolled and taken over by emotions.  I’m not broken though; there is nothing to fix.  I’m working on reigning in the sensitivity super power, but I want to keep it there.  I want to ride the highs and lows proudly.

Even more importantly, I want to miss Tim terribly when he’s gone.  He is my life breath and I die when his absence overwhelms.  We are partners in our little life so I SHOULD feel it when half of me is missing.  I GET to have my one and only be someone whose void feels like a black hole.  I’ll take the depression if I get to have him.  I’ll take the lows if I know he’ll come home soon to lift me out.  Until then, I’ll be waiting here, suffering and feeling like everything is just too much.

Guess who also is a total grump when Tim's gone.

Guess who also is a total grump when Tim’s gone.