I’m a commercial photographer, recovering showgirl & business activist. I have been a woman in business for most of my adult life. I’ve had a few ‘jobs’ and quickly learned that I am an entrepreneur inside and out; as Napoleon Hill calls us ‘serial boat burners’. Though instead of burning things down, I am most interested in building things up, specifically social media built by women, for women globally so that we can take center stage in our businesses & in our lives! I firmly believe a women lead world will be a better world for everyone.
In recent years of social uprising, Covid lockdowns and our recurring opportunities to look at how and why we do what we do, I’ve often been asking myself about what inclusivity really means to me, to the work we are doing on the LBI Backstage Pass and overall, what it means for Women in Business. To say I’ve been to the drawing board a few times is a vast understatement and I suspect that I won’t stop drafting anytime soon. There’s this ongoing urge for me to do more, say more and do my god blessed best to ensure all women globally feel welcome in this world; even when, honestly, I do not.
It’s been said we often build the worlds we wish to live in. I can say with absolute certainty that’s exactly what I am up to with my LBI Backstage Pass crew. Now let’s be clear:
I realize every day that I absolutely do not have the answers to what a truly inclusive world looks like. But what I do know, is what it does not look like! With that said, I’ve made it my mission to remain open to feedback, questions, comments, concerns, cancels and call outs!
I also am aware that as a white woman, my privilege proceeds my imposter syndrome, my occasional social anxiety ( yea, even extroverts get it!!) and a variety of other ‘issues’ that sometimes leave me feeling not exactly welcome. This said, my sisters with darker skin have absolutely experienced far more occasions of exclusion than I. And I have empathy and want for everyone to feel welcome.
When we first launched the platform in Fall 2021, I was canceled once a week, seriously.
First by a cyst gendered, white male who told me I ‘was not man enough’ for this to be a successful endeavor of building social media by women, for women. Ha! Ok, Bro!
The next week I wasn’t Brown enough, the week after that I wasn’t Gay enough and the week following, not Hebrew enough. And let me just tell you that as a small statured but loud, Queer, Jewish, Woman, I’ve also had my own experiences of not knowing exactly where I fit in. AND that’s why I want to make sure that anyone & everyone who wants to do life differently, who wants to see our systems change, who wants to pull back the curtain on how we do business knows that we are building stages together so that we can ALL BE WELCOME. If the systems that be will not include our valuable perspectives, we will build our own, thank you very much, Bro!
So let’s talk about the value of the intersection of diversity – in people, in fields of business, and in various levels of experience as an entry to inclusivity.
Sure, I could reference ye old dictionary definitions of what the word to include really means but let’s face it, you’re reading this on a device connected to Google, so you got that search on your own, Boss! And over the arch of time, we can see that knowledge shared from people with more experience is just as valuable as the pure, unadulterated innocence of insights from new thought leaders. Same can be said for each person’s human experience offering a unique perspective, especially when that point of view is coming from a variation of cultural background, age or life path than my own; from a different socio-economic level than what I have been born into or even just from an alternative area of study, expertise or line of work.
When I talk about inclusivity with the LBI Backstag Pass crew, I lead with the intention that to be inclusive is to listen more than talk, to slow business down because in order to include everyone, this will take time. And to my surprise, honest and true surprise, slowing down for this well intending inclusion is really fucking hard for me. I really do want everyone’s voice to be heard whilst simultaneously being super efficient so as to also honor people’s time. Spoiler alert….doesn’t happen that way because to listen also takes time, to stop the express train of business takes pause and to really do bizz differently, takes the long way, yo!
And every day, I’m absolutely re-working our timeline, drafting another way to include more perspectives. That is, I’m 1000% a work in progress on this, every blessed day.
When most people think of the word ‘inclusivity,’ they likely think of diversity in the workplace. And while that’s an important aspect of inclusivity, it’s not the only one. Inclusive businesses are those that recognize and celebrate diversity in all forms, including age, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical ability, and religious beliefs.
It’s up to us, as women, as entrepreneurs, as ladybosses to create the inclusive environments we want to be a part of and leave behind us as a part of our legacy.
So how can women in business create an inclusive environment?
Here are 5 practical ways you can be more inclusive:
Create Opportunities for Different Voices:
When it comes to the services you provide, the places you have conversations, the platforms you go live on, etc… are you making space and providing opportunities for women from all walks of life to access and join the conversation?
I know it can be hard to get outside of our comfort zones sometimes, but women in business can create a more inclusive environment by being vulnerable and uncomfortable. Leading the way in inclusivity will require us, at times, to do things that stretch us and cause is to grow. So challenge yourself to look at the voices that are being shared in your business and push yourself to create more opportunities where needed.
Be Open to Collaborations:
As women in business, especially in the online space, collaboration is a huge key to growth and success. But are you collaborating with the same people over and over again? Are you making sure that you’re being inclusive in the opportunities you offer and in the opportunities you seek for yourself?
If women in business are feeling like they’re stuck or that there’s no way to collaborate outside of their own circle, it might be time to do a little digging. When women say ‘no’ to women, women lose out on opportunities for growth and success. So we need to encourage each other to look beyond the people they’re already connected with and open themselves to new possibilities, new avenues for growth, and new ways to include more women.
Make Your Content Accessible:
As we’ve been growing and developing LBI and the Backstage Pass, we’ve been learning about ways to be inclusive by making our content accessible and functional for everyone.
From clubhouse to images on our blog and social media, and everything in between we’re committed to making it easy to connect and join the conversations we’re engaged in.
Practically speaking this means:
Using clubhouse best practices for persons with vision or hearing impairments. We introduce ourselves when we “unmic”, and finish our thoughts with “I pass the mic” or “I am done speaking”, so it’s clear who is speaking and when someone new begins.
Including alt text on our images so that persons with visual impairment can understand the imagery we use and the context of it.
These are just a few examples of best practices that all everyone to be included in what we’re creating and sharing from a practical stand point.
Ask for Feedback:
A key piece of what we believe inclusivity to be, includes an openness and willingness to encourage and implement feedback in our community. By asking the women in our community for feedback on ways that we can do better when it comes to being actually inclusive, we are able to improve, grow and continue creating an open, welcoming, and inclusive environment!
When was the last time you asked for feedback on your business? Did you look for opportunities to foster more inclusive practices?
Use Every Platform Available to You:
Diversity in the platforms that you use to promote, share, and engage with your community will give you a much greater opportunity to include new voices, stories, and perspectives in the business and legacy that you’re building. Often you’ll find that while there is some cross over in platform audience, usually you’re speaking to unique audiences. Those unique audiences automatically create new opportunities for fostering inclusivity.
To be inclusive women in business need to actively seek out platform diversity. This may mean anything from using YouTube or Tiktok for video content, to attending women’s conferences or women in business events.
It also often means making the commitment to purposefully engage with women who are not like yourself, who have different experiences, and who you might not normally cross paths with.
Inclusivity is something we should all be actively practicing on a regular basis. Some people might say that inclusivity means treating everyone the same, but it goes beyond this and includes creating an environment of openness and equality where every voice has space to contribute without judgment or fear. As entrepreneurs and women in business, we have so much more to offer than just our products or services — we bring different perspectives and insights into life experiences which can enrich any business venture.
Now it’s your turn to weigh on on this conversation. What ways do you foster inclusivity within your own business?
I’m Lindsay Tramel-Jones and I am the owner of Organized Chaos Design Company, a brand identity design agency located in Maryland. We are on a mission to help female business owners create their own tables that are authentic to them, simultaneously empowering them to stop hustling to sit in places not intended for us. Our agency rebrands coaches that are ready to go full time in their business with our signature, done for you process known as the Brand Refinement. You can find out more about my team, myself and the transformations we are making at www.organizedchaosdesigncompany.com
During our time in business, we noticed that when a coach’s service isn’t selling, their first instinct is to create something new. For example, “let me create this new, cheaper group program” or “lower my rates.” They rarely take the time to analyze their 24 hour a day marketing and selling machine, their website. Your website has a huge effect on the likelihood of visitors making a purchase.
According to research conducted by the Stanford Credibility Project “46% of respondents reported that they assessed website credibility based on the overall design of the site, including elements like typography, layout, and color schemes.” That means that almost half of your visitors will question your skills due to a poorly designed website.
If that’s not enough to get your website together, the Nielsen Norman Group studies the effects of user interface and user experience on websites. They define it as the aesthetic-usability effect. It refers to “users’ tendencies to perceive attractive products as more usable. People tend to believe things that look better will work better — even if they aren’t actually more effective or efficient.” Bottom line is if your website looks better people will inherently believe that the service is better. Feeling a little worried? Don’t sit in anxiety, there are some clues that your website is working against you instead of working for you. Check them out and see where you can improve how well your site works for you.
5 Clues Your Website Might be Working Against You:
You send a warm lead to your website and you never hear from them again.
If you do not make your design easy to follow, website users will leave. Once you get people to your site, it has to tell them where to go. The words and flow should lead them. If people get lost on your website it’s because you don’t guide them on the journey. Every page needs to have a goal and a journey in mind from beginning of the page to end of the page. The journey doesn’t solely depend on the design, you need to have website copy that makes sense and speaks in a tone that attracts them with words they are familiar with.
You use an over abundance of specialized lingo.
Most entrepreneurs create words to call their clients. It is creative and intuitive, however when people stumble across your site without getting to know you through social media, they are not going to know what those words mean. Not to mention that they do not help your SEO. Your goal is to have organic traffic, people will not be able to find you on search engines if you’re not using words that people use to search.
An overabundance of animations & pop ups.
Gathering email addresses is a huge part of small business marketing strategies, but the email subscription popup has proven to be annoying and a turn off to customers. They interrupt the client’s journey. Think about how you feel when a website has a few popups, especially when you’re on your cell phone and it is hard to close the popup out. You leave the site right?
Your site loads slower than molasses:
I’m a sucker for beautiful branded photos, but photographers love to give us large photo files that slow down our site loading time. If visitors have to wait a long time before your site loads, they will leave. One way to combat this is to compress your photos. On a MAC you can do this in photo preview and change the size. When you receive your photos from the photographer, ask for web size. Another way to speed up your site is to host your videos on YouTube or Vimeo and embed it on your site. Keep in mind, while you are changing the size of your photos, change the names. This will help with being found in search engines, more on that in the next paragraph.
Use commonly searched phrases on your site:
When you rename your photos, rename them to phrases that people search for. For example women-in-stem or seattle- business-coach. When you create your keywords on your pages use the same concept. Those keywords are what you see when you start typing into the search bar on the internet. A good resource to use is https://trends.google.com/. This will help you choose which keywords to use.
Before attempting to create another offer, check your website to see if you are delivering an easy to follow user experience. If users are not captivated by your website and the interaction that it offers, you will lose them. That warm lead will quickly become cold. A possible lead may never find you because of your word choices or that visitor may leave due to being annoyed by the popups. Review your website to see if it is meeting the mark and if you have any questions reach out to us on instagram and facebook @organizedchaos.designco or on pinterest @organizedchaosdesign
Ready to get better at using your technology? Techie is the go-to guy!
In this short video interview you’ll meet Techie, and his wife & family, and get a peek into what he does and how he can help you create tech solutions in your business that can save you time and money!
As women in business, it can be hard to handle all the moving parts and technology that it takes to keep things up-to-date and user friendly. Techie will be offering regular tips, hacks and ideas as our resident tech genius!
Do you have a tech question you’d like Techie and his wife to answer for you? Leave a comment below and we’ll be sure to have them answer it!
Things didn’t work out the way you planned. You failed once again at that thing that you are supposed to be amazing at.
Begging your pardon, but I must ask.
What was it?
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what it was because failure is like breathing.
The real question is….
Now that you failed, how do you move forward?
To move past failure, you need to understand that everyone is going to fail at some point, what to do when it happens to you and how to turn failures into opportunities.
Here are 5 takeaways from failing that everyone needs to know.
Everyone fails at some point.
Everyone is going to fail.
Sometimes you feel like you failed when you miss a deadline or get overlooked for that promotion. Sometimes you feel like a failure because you were not as successful as you would like to be or because you currently have no clients.
Hey, it’s ok. Run your own race.
The first thing that you must remember is that FAIL simply means First. Attempt. In. Learning.
Too many people see failure as a destination; That failure is permanent, that once you failed, that’s it, you’re done.
Failure, my friends, is only permanent when YOU decide that you’re done.
Repeat after me: You are not a failure. You are amazing! You’re just experiencing a bump in the road of life. Ultimately, whether you succeed or fail will be dictated by how you deal with this situation.
You know that voice in your head that isn’t your conscious?
The mean girl (or guy) voice that whispers the mean words that you would never say to another human being out loud?
You have to be careful with this voice, because it is a wily one. Like it or not, that voice is always going to be there.
You can listen to it (I don’t recommend this!) or you can choose to turn down the volume on that voice and turn up the volume on your gratitude for all the things you do have and have done.
That voice is quietest when you decide that you must move forward and when you become ok with taking messy action (more on this soon!) In the meantime, be kind to yourself. Use mistakes as learning tools. Guard your mind and remember that it is ok to take a breath and tell yourself how amazing you are. Mistakes happen. As long as you take the time to learn the lessons that come with them, then all is well.
Keep Moving Forward
A favorite Disney movie in our house is “Meet the Robinsons.” One of my favorite quotes is from that movie. In it, young Louis’s fear of failure keeps him from achieving his potential until he meets Wilber. Wilber’s family teaches Louis that despite the pitfalls of life, one must always keep moving forward. Young Lewis is petrified because another of his inventions failed to work and he is devastated. The family begins to cheer his amazing failure, much to Lewis’s shock. In that moment, Lewis is told “From failures you learn, from success…. Not so much.”
In life, you have two choices. You can cry “Woe is me” and give up and let life happen to you or you can keep moving forward. Choose to keep moving forward. Choose to fail faster. You and your dreams are worth it.
Take Messy Action
This one is hard. Once you have failed, the hardest thing to do is to move forward. So how do you do it? You take action. Action doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, most often it will not be perfect. Don’t wait for perfection my friend, it will never come. Decide instead to do something. It may be ugly, and it will be messy, but oftentimes those lessons learned through messy action are some of the best ones.
Move the Needle
One of the best ways to move past failure is to do a ‘Start, Stop, Continue’. At the end of a project or even just periodically, you should schedule this type of review. Basically, you list one or two things you should start doing, one or two behaviors that you should stop and one or two things that you should continue doing.
Moving past an occasion of failure requires action, and not just any action. Moving forward requires a quick evaluation of actions that you can do that will move the needle of the compass of your life or business in a positive direction. This can be tricky but by reviewing your current systems and behaviors, you can positively impact your life as you move forward past the failed attempt.
Failures are Opportunities
Get comfortable with your relationship with failure. Failures are opportunities for growth. Thomas Edison, who invented the lightbulb, was once asked how it felt to fail a thousand times. Let his reply stick with you. “I didn’t fail. I found a thousand ways not to invent a lightbulb.”
Always ask yourself, “What did I learn?”, “How can I make this better next time?”, and “What went right that I can use again as I move forward in this crazy thing called life?”
As you grow and learn, you will find that the most growth will happen at your line of discomfort, where the ground feels unstable.
Most likely, it will happen through trial and error and there will be failures along the way. Failure is an amazing teacher and the lessons that come through failure are a bit harder to forget.
You’ve got this!
You have always had it!
So take a breath and go get your message out into the world!
Inclusion is not a one size fits all proposition and it cannot be something that is implemented once and then left behind. Active inclusivity is required to ensure everyone within our community feels they have a voice and are able to participate fully.
This isn’t always easy; it takes work and vigilance to make sure everyone feels comfortable and safe, but the benefits are clear. When inclusivity becomes the norm rather than an exception, our businesses and community benefit from the varied perspectives, skills, and insights of all members. With active inclusivity we can create an environment where everyone can reach their potential and contribute to making our community thrive.
Activated Inclusivity: Leading the way for women in business.
When we talked about inclusivity as one of our main core values, we included characteristics such as being fair, open, kind and relentless. We recognize that we, as women, sometimes fall short on some of these characteristics. We also recognize that we are fully capable of taking the more challenging path and leading the way when it comes to making inclusive spaces for all.
When we walk about inclusivity inside of LBI and the Backstage Pass, we endeavor to practice what we preach. This allows us to create opportunities for women to learn and thrive, because we know that women who succeed together can change the world.
When we join forces as women, accepting and encouraging through diversity and inclusivity, we empower us all to collaborate, elevate and inspire. That’s what Ladyboss International is all about: women helping women be their best.
In order to make this happen, we must lead the way through kindness, open communication, hard conversations, hope and (ACTUALLY!) fair practices. Whether it’s women of different age, race or culture, women who are LGBTQ+, women without children, women with children, women at various income levels or women with disabilities – we consider it our duty to ensure that all women can learn and grow through the LBI Backstage Pass and the opportunities it creates.
If you were to pull back the curtain and peek inside the LBI Backstage Pass you’d see women from every walk and stage of life collaborating, encouraging and celebrating each other. And THAT is what we are all about!
When we asked the LBI Crew to share what inclusivity inside of LBI is to them, they had this to add:
“Inclusivity in the LBI for me, is being able to find a space for all of our Ladybosses in the BSP. There’s no guessing it! I can see in member list and feel it as we share and grow together.” – Martine, Community Womanager.
“Inclusivity in the LBI is the ability of recognizing and discovering everyone’s unique diverse talents within LBI and the Backstage Pass.” – Techie, Webmaster
“Inside everything we do at LBI and in the Backstage Pass, I see diverse women from all walks of life welcomed, added to the conversations, and invited into every facet of what we’re building. It’s an incredible, inspiring and empowering thing to witness AND be a part of!” – Jennifer, Blog Boss Editor
As the leaders and influencers we have the opportunity to not only do things “differently”, but also with intention, care and compassion. This is the legacy that we are creating with the LBI Backstage Pass and our commitment to inclusivity.
As women we will continue to lead the way with inclusivity inside of LBI and the Backstage Pass. We are all about creating a space for women around the world to learn, grow, thrive and accomplish BIG things in this world. We hope you’ll join us in this mission!
What is your definition of inclusivity? How does it impact the women in business you are connected to? How does inclusivity show up in your business? We’d love to here your insights in the comments below!
As Evelyn stared out the window cupping her hot coco in her cold hands, she was lost for words. The cursor on her computer screen was flashing non-stop. I have nothing but a title on a blank page. Evelyn thought.
“You finished yet? We need that report, Miss Oaks”. Evelyn rolled her eyes with disgust at the sight of Mr Conners. He was the definition of cutthroat if it had a nerdy brother and doesn’t bully but belittles at every chance he gets.
“It’s keeping my hands warm Joel. Besides you have no place or business asking me for a report that has nothing to do with your department for that matter”. Evelyn exclaimed. Evelyn knew that standing up to this man was a risk, more so now than the holiday bonus was coming up but someone had to do it.
“Ahh miss Oaks, I’m glad I’ve caught you. Your piece about Christmas fashions over the years is something I’d like to merge with Joel’s idea on the spirit of Christmas. Oh, and instead of Fashion, how about inspirational stories or what inspires people to celebrate Christmas. That sort of thing”. Collin Roberts said as he stood there with a hot cup of Joe.
“WHAT!” Evelyn Yelled.
“Oh, splendid sir, thank you so much. I’m always looking for new people to collaborate with”. Joel continued.
“I’m so glad you enjoyed my Christmas spirit piece. I promise you; you won’t regret it and we’ll work around the clock if we must.” Joel replied.
If he smiled any harder, he’ll be the brand ambassador for the Cheshire Cat. Evelyn wondered.
“The hell we will” Evelyn mumbled.
“Collin come on, there isn’t any way, I’m working around the clock on this. It’s the holidays”. Evelyn responded standing there crossing her arms like a 5-year-old brat that’s just been told no for the first time in her precious life.
“Besides, Evelyn said. Everyone knows I work best on my own anyway”.
“And that’s the problem Evelyn, you’re a lone wolf with no people skills”. Colin replied
“Excuse me” Evelyn said sarcastically. Colin looked like Evelyn as if he was expecting a different reaction.
“If someone gets too close, you immediately cut them off with no warning. Collin yelled.
Time stood still, almost frozen in that moment. Shock of horror and fear filled Evelyn and her co-workers’ faces. It was obvious to Evelyn that he was referring to last Summer.
“Look Evelyn. You got to learn how to work with people. Nobody goes through life alone. We all have someone there to help us or guide us in one direction or another”. Collin threw his coat over his arms and walked away. Though for Evelyn, it was more like he was sprinting to avoid her spicy hot backchat at 10 in the morning. Though to be fair to him, Evelyn knew the delivery of her words would feel like fire and thunder wrapped up in one.
“Collin don’t walk away from this. We’re not done yet.” Evelyn shouted.
As Collin stood in the hallway, he opened his office door and responded with only three Evelyn thought she’d never hear.
“Yes, we are!” Collin said.
Evelyn stood there stunned. She felt her entire world collapsing with her in it. She could have sent in a shit show of a draft, and he still wouldn’t care. “Right then!” Joel said as he rubbed his hands together with glee. “Where shall we start Miss Oaks? I got a few ideas”. Joel asked.
He grabbed Evelyn’s chair and sat down. Evelyn looked at him in a way that questioned his whole entire decisions in life. “Er excuse you? Evelyn asked, that’s MY chair!” Ignoring Evelyn, Joel continued. “See with you research…I presume you did some research”.
“Are you really questioning me?” Evelyn asked? “What kind of Editor-in-Chief do you think I am Joel?”
Evelyn walked out and right there in that moment she knew she had made the biggest mistake. But Evelyn wasn’t one to back down.
As Evelyn arrived at her front door, she thought about Collin’s words. Still ringing from the day before. Collin was Evelyn’s rival at everything, never mind him being her boss. To Evelyn, he was the worst person that could she lay her eyes on.
Evelyn entered and sat by the fire. She pulled out her notepad and pen from the mini desk drawer besides her and began tapping on it like it was a musical number. Her Pomeranian dog strolled in carrying a Door wreath in its mouth and dropped it by Evelyn’s feet.
“Not today, Terrance, Mama’s got a new assignment to do. Looks like, we’re going old school.” Evelyn said sweetly as she stroked her dog.
“What is Christmas? No. Too cliché.” Evelyn tore the page, crushed it up and threw it at the trashcan.
“Write from the heart”. A voice in the hallway replied softly.
“Hello? Who’s there?” Evelyn asked. She got up from her comfy armchair and began looking around the living room. Anyone who knows Evelyn personally would see that she’s always been a curious soul. She’ll even walk right into danger if she could, just to see what’s going on.
A ghostly presence appeared by Evelyn’s barely anything there Christmas Tree. Terrance saw the ghost and began wagging his tail furiously and his barking became increasingly loud.
“Terrance…Terrance what is it boy? There’s nothing there” Evelyn said.
“Hello dear”. The voice of a woman was starting to sound familiar to Evelyn.
“Aunt Rose?” Evelyn asked. Suddenly, the ghostly presence revealed a pale woman with Copper Auburn hair wearing a white gown. Aunt Rose was always an angel in Evelyn’s eyes and whenever she was down or needed her the most, Aunt Rose would just show up out the blue like a Christmas Miracle.
“Hey Baby, I heard your heart cry.” Aunt Rose said with her sweet Tennessee tones.
“So, what are you working on Evie?” Aunt Rose asked grabbing Evelyn’s notepad.
“None of ya business. God your so nosey!” Evelyn replied as she snatched her notepad from Aunt rose’s hand.
Just then, the doorbell rang.
“Expecting company?” Aunt Rose asked.
Evelyn gave Aunt Rose the dreaded eye roll knowing full well that she was not a person to be messed with, let alone give her any kind of attitude.
Evelyn opened the door to see but the level of shock written on Evelyn’s face was unbearable. Even for Aunt Rose.
“Hey. You erm. Left this back at the office”. Joel said “I figured, you might need it to jot down any ideas or drawings for this article.
“My iPad. Thanks a lot” Evelyn answered.
“Don’t just stand there love. Let him in.” Aunt Rose replied
As Evelyn let Joel in, he couldn’t help but notice the homely feel and of the place.
“Smells just like my grandmama’s house. Is that candy canes?” Joel shrieked in excitement as he ran towards Evelyn’s Christmas tree. “Gosh, I haven’t had one of these since I was 8”.
“Tastes just like home.”
“Why don’t you tell me about that. Christmas at your grandma’s place.” Said Evelyn.
“Well… It was nice”. Joel smiled. It beamed so bright that you could use his smile as a Christmas light.
“There was lots of food. Mac and Cheese, Truffle and garlic butter potatoes and mash, and oh the honey roast parsnips and honey BBQ turkey”. “It was warm and plenty of laughs. I miss that” Joel said. His sad face was not for the faint hearted
“Evelyn dear, sit next to him, get to know him better…Work with him”. Aunt Rose yelled.
Though she was still a ghostly presence unknown to Joel, her words continued to ring loud and clear in Evelyn’s ear. For Evelyn figured she could use this time to see why his so bitter and cold. Not to mention a Calculating backstabbing you know what.
Evelyn began jotting notes on her iPad, she wasn’t very traditional with the pen and paper anyway.
Warm, Family, Love? Evelyn wrote. The words flowing on the page like a godly river. Evelyn noticed Joel shedding a tear as he stared into the abyss which at first glance looked as if he was staring at either the Christmas tree or her Aunt Rose. By this point, Evelyn just couldn’t tell what was real anymore.
“Well, the assignment is…”
“… The real meaning of Christmas and the inspirations behind it”. Joel said finishing Evelyn’s sentence. “So, it’s only fair Evelyn, to know… since I shared my experience what’s yours?” Joel asked.
Fear took over and so did the time. Both escaping her, one breath at a time.
“Which one do you want to spill first? Aunt Rose questioned Evelyn as if she was on trial. “The breakup or my death?”.
“Christmas is a complicated subject”. Evelyn replied.
“Complicated?” Aunt rose scoffed “More like sore. That break up with Darren was a lot more painful than my periods and to be frank, I like Michael buble’ just like everyone else. But hunny, you play him enough times and he starts to irritate me”.
“The fact is Joel, I hate Christmas. It’s fast approaching, and it sucks”. Evelyn yelled. She didn’t feel like celebrating this year. Why should she? Evelyn thought. She turned to her Aunt Rose for the desperate advice she clearly needed.
“There’s no use looking at me kid. I died on Thanksgiving, and it was a wonderful way to go. I was happy and there was so much love in the room”. Aunt Rose said joyfully.
“You got to let me go Eve, you’ll be a lot happier and not to mention free. Don’t you want to be happy?” Aunt Rose asked.
Evelyn knew what she had to do, for the assignment was about inspiration and for her, Aunt Rose was just that. Not just for her but for the community. She kept going despite hard times and despite the grief and the troubles and the turmoil. She never gave up. Christmas was always a constant reminder to Evelyn to keep going in life and to always run never walk towards her dreams.
To everyone’s surprise, Evelyn’s favourite Pomeranian dog Dodger runs into the living room with a Christmas wreath in its mouth. He drops the wreath at Joel’s feet.
The room has an unspoken bond between Joel and Dodger, leaving Evelyn feeling slightly uneasy.
“Dodger not now! Can’t you see I’m working”. Evelyn yells. His puppy dog eyes fills the room with emotions so raw.
“It’s okay, I think his just curious. I was once curious when I was young”. Joel said with such enthusiasm.
“Aren’t you curious always? You seem to be in everybody’s business at work. Roaming the hallways with your opinions. Well…Newsflash Joel! Nobody cares about your opinions. You just need to stop being so damn nosey all the time”. Evelyn continued. “I hate to break it to you Joel, but people don’t like you! Your too cutthroat in this industry and you always have something to say. Yet no-one’s seen your work. Where’s your work Joel? Why don’t you show us your work once in a while so we can give you a taste of your own medicine and offer up some of our own opinions and see how you like it”. Evelyn shouted.
Seeing Joel cry gave Evelyn a whole new perspective on this man. It was scary but at the same time, kind of awkward to watch. Some may even say painful to watch a grown man like Joel cry like a blubbering 5-year-old. But in the midst of it all deep down, it was beautiful to watch. Not because the guy had it coming, but because as her therapist would say, he was finally breaking through those barriers, and he was healing.
Evelyn ran to the kitchen to take deep breaths. She had just made her bosses favourite employee cry. She took the entire napkins from the cupboard and uttered the words she hated the most. “I’m sorry!” She said.
“I know you probably don’t like me Evelyn, I get it. I’ve been mean to you ever since you started. Trying to undermine you and your ideas at every turn but I just want you to know that you inspire me. You always have, right from your first article”. Joel responded.
He proceeded to continue. “You were in the beauty department and when you wrote that article about finding the inner you, it was so good, so in depth and so meaningful that I couldn’t put it down…Everyone loved you and I couldn’t understand why”.
“I mean your piece was good but a little cliché. But I guess you were the new girl, the one bringing the fresh ideas. Claire thought you’d get that senior position, a seat at the big boys club”. Joel said as he shuffled in his seat.
The level of shock on Aunt Rose’s face could never match that of Evelyn’s.
“Well, I never”. Aunt Rose proclaimed.
Dodger had a way of breaking tension in any room, just ask Aunt Rose what happened in the year of 1996. He might have been a pup back then, but he sure was mighty.
Dodger nudged Evelyn’s leg and barked at her like he was demanding for attention. As if his cuteness didn’t get him enough of that already.
“What is it Dodger? Stop that!” Evelyn yelled at dodger like she was a second-hand banshee in Prada.
“Don’t look at me like that Dodger or you Joel, What’s the point of Christmas now that my Family is stuck in New Zealand and my boyfriend dumped me on last year on Christmas Eve. And don’t even get me started using Zoom on Christmas day”. Evelyn shouted.
Her words echoed through to Aunt Rose and Joel’s mind. Each hunched over like they had something to be sorry for. It was getting too much for Evelyn and she knew what she had to do. Run like the wind.
She slammed her door so hard the room shook, and a framed photo fell from the dresser. Smashed glass all over the floor. After picking up the pieces, all that remained was a broken wooden picture frame and a black and white photo lying on the cold hard laminate floor.
“God, I miss you Aunt Rose…I look at your photo every day, wishing you was really here”. Evelyn said crying into the picture. “But I am here kid, I’m here right now. Can’t you see”. Aunt Rose replied as she stood by the doorway.
“Not like this Aunt Rose. Not as a ghost but as a real human presence”. Evelyn yelled.
“Now you wait a minute, young lady. First of all, I’m not a ghost, but an Angel and second I’m as a real as it gets”. Aunt Rose screamed.
Evelyn smiled and a chuckle found its way into her heart. “Now, go downstairs and apologise to that nice young man and work together on this project. Hurry before he eats all of my candy on that tree”. Aunt Rose responded with the only way she knew how. With assertiveness and humour.
Working her way towards Joel, Evelyn thought that she didn’t have the courage to apologise, but after seeing a glimpse of Aunt Rose’s angry face. She knew she never wanted to double cross her, and she just had to do it.
“Apologies are often hard, so I get it”. Joel mumbled. If it wasn’t for my Aunt Rose, his arrogance would have placed Joel outside my house and on the blocked list for future events and interactions. Evelyn thought to herself.
She smiled and for the first time in a long time, it seemed Evelyn found an ally, a friend if you will in Joel to talk to and discuss her love of Christmas and her hates. And for a while, Evelyn felt free. Like the weight on her shoulders had been lifted for someone else to carry the heavy burdens of life.
Days went by and the deadline was finally approaching. Evelyn and Joel discovered a mutual interest in the joys of Christmas and the inspirations behind them. From inspirations in gift giving or people inspiring others from their actions or their positive beliefs and values. It dawned on Evelyn that collaborating with Joel meant she had a chance to get to know him better. Away from a work setting and into personal waters with him.
“I hope you two are ready for the presentation, the client is waiting inside”. Colin remarked.
“This is it! Everything we’ve been working so hard for. Remember Evelyn you, being just yourself, is what will push this deal forward. I doubt their going to be interested in the numbers side of things. But I’m sure a personal relationship, a personal touch will certainly get us there”. Joel expressed an excitement that Evelyn hadn’t seen before. It was almost as if this was a new person and she helped to get him there.
Walking into the boardroom felt scary, Evelyn had been through done these many times, but this time was different. The atmosphere was a lot more serious, and the tone was cold and isolating. For Evelyn feared walking into the unknown and this was no exception.
“Right then Miss Oaks and Mr Conners, please when you’re ready. Please tell us why the article of The real meaning of Christmas and the inspirations behind it would be great to feature in our magazine”. The client asked.
“Certainly”. Joel declared. He was strangely calm and content. For a busy body who is nosey with nothing better to do, this was unsettling to Evelyn.
Joel continued. “We found that this year is a difficult time for everyone, I’m sure we all hate this Coronavirus as much as that annoying colleague over there”. Everyone laughed and nodded heads. Was this normal? Am I dreaming? Evelyn questioned this interaction with uncertainty. It felt like high school over again. Is this too much, are we going into this way too heavy? she wondered.
“It’s thrown uncertainty over every life situation and cause havoc with people’s lives. But one thing we. Both Miss Oaks and I have discovered is the inspiration in this town is immeasurable. People have come together to help one another, to ensure everyone smiles not just for the day but for life. Now, especially in this year. Inspiration is no longer valid from finding and giving the best gift, it’s any finding any gift that matters even a 99 cent one. The best gift anyone can give this Christmas would be to make someone smile again”.
Joel was really selling this article like a Christmas cookie at a bakery. Evelyn thought. It was nice to see him in his element. It was nice to see him for who he is. A person with feelings who uses anger and spite as way to make himself feel better.
“And with this current situation, the inspiration to make this a Christmas to remember is everywhere. It’s on our doorstep when the mail man comes to visit, it’s in our coffee shops when people sit in silence wondering about the day, it’s also within us too. We can all be creative to help make Christmas a wonderful day to remember and to help someone smile again. It’s about family, love and the joys of it all but it’s also a time to remember those we lost too”. Evelyn said as she stood there smiling. Evelyn felt proud and for the first time in a very long time, Evelyn had a moment of peace. One she’d never experienced before, and she liked it.
“So, with our article. We can put a list of things to do in remembrance of someone they lost…”. Evelyn affirmed.
“…from lighting a candle and keeping them in our thoughts, to playing their favourite music and dancing around the house as a family, to even singing a song that makes them laugh. Mine is Under the Sea. From” Joel yelled in excitement.
“From The Little Mermaid, we get it thank you Joel”. Collin laughed.
“Looks like we got a smashing article to approve for this year’s Christmas special”. Said the Client.
“Thank you all, please wait outside while we decide”. Collin asked.
Waiting for the board of directors to approve an article felt like agony. Evelyn and Joel waited for hours, and hours and the day suddenly became night.
“Chinese or Steakhouse?” Joel asked Evelyn. “Just because we’re waiting, we still have to eat something”.
“Chinese. Can’t beat a good shrimp rice and Sweet and Sour chicken.” Evelyn replied. The two of them laughed and for those hours it seemed like time stood still endlessly.
Colin came out of the boardroom a little flustered and that bothered Evelyn. Especially since it reminded her of last summer.
“May I have a word Miss Oaks in my office?” Collin asked
“Of course,”. As soon as Collin closed the door, it seemed he couldn’t help himself but bring up the past again.
“Great piece Evelyn, I see that working with Joel did help you in the end. You two work well together”. Collin said.
“Listen, Collin continued. About last summer, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to kiss you and leave you in the wind”.
“Leave me in the wind, Evelyn shouted. You told me you love me, kissed me, and ran off. I didn’t hear from you or see you until a whole 6 months after on Christmas Eve”. Evelyn yelled as she slapped Collin’s face.
“You just left me. I waited for you for a long time. Then you texted me that you can’t do this anymore. How was I supposed to function? Evelyn said. She walked out and slammed the door. Standing there in the hallway, she took a deep breath as Joel stood up in shock.
“They’re waiting for us. They called us back in, but I said I’ll wait for you”. Joel and Evelyn walked into the boardroom with their heads held high. It seemed that the clients loved the article and for Evelyn, she knew she could be herself once again. For the journey was treacherous and dark, but with the help of her close and new friends. Evelyn saw a new beginning opening up for her and her career. One she was sure grateful for.
Holding her coffee mug, standing by the window. Evelyn saw a snowflake glisten in the sunlight and right there and then, Evelyn knew her Aunt Rose was behind her inspiration for this article. Giving Evelyn the closure she had been seeking for some time.
Feeling blissful, Evelyn stood there in awe of the blessings all around her. She finally felt accomplished and not to mention proud for everything she had worked incredibly hard for. This was Evelyn’s dream coming true right before her eyes and she was thankful.