Posts of Author ‘Meredith Hodges‘

Sep
12
2014
12:35 pm

Can you have it all?

I was asked to speak at a conference this month on work/life balance.  Upon reflection, I recalled a poem from college by Kurt Tucholsky, “Das Ideal.”  In its essence, the poem encapsulates his idea of a perfect life:

 

“Yeah, you’d like that:

A villa in the countryside with an ample terrace,

faces the Pacific, backs up to Central Park (that’s the idea anyway) …”

 

Through the poem, Tucholsky paints a picture of the perfect life, one in which you can have it all. His ideal includes beautiful views of the mountains from the bathroom, servants, old wine, lots of money, splendid children, etc.  While the bottles of wine sound pretty good to me at the moment, we all have our own versions of the ideal, don’t we?  Yours likely varies from mine but the concept is the same – we all want to “truly have it all.”

Having it all – a high-paying and fulfilling career, a big family, ample free time to spend doing things you love, enough time with your spouse, caring for your children, and remaining an active member of the community.

Doesn’t having it all sound great? Juggling careers, families, and enough free time to enjoy the pleasures in life … totally doable.

In fact, that’s malarkey.  The “wonder woman” lifestyle, being a full-time career woman, mother, and community volunteer, is highly over-rated (if not impossible).  What is useful, however, are a few tips from someone who’s been around the block a few times and would like to see you get close to your own version of the ideal.

First step:  prioritize.  It took years of ignoring my husband and my therapist before I realized they were right.  You can’t do it all. Everything is not of equal importance.  So, what should you focus on first?  YOU!  If you aren’t healthy (mentally and physically) then you can’t effectively help your kid with homework, attend a reception with your spouse or answer that next darned email that comes right after you finish working through your inbox at 12:30 am.  You need to budget time during the week to take care of yourself – get some exercise, for goodness sake get some quiet time, and do whatever makes you happy.  Your family comes second. That may sound harsh, but if you don’t take care of yourself first then you can’t be there to take care of your family.  Third: let’s talk about work and where you are apt to make the biggest contribution and get the biggest bang for your buck.  Note – keeping an empty email box is not the answer.  Instead, think of the bigger picture. If you could do one thing to make your company better, what would it be?  Spend some time on the important things – the day-to-day issues will be there regardless.

Second step: learn to say “No.”  (PLEASE don’t let my mother read this.)  Yes, she’s right too – you simply can’t say yes to everything.  One must set boundaries.  “Five board positions and a full time job?!” my psychiatrist said to me one day.  “Consider one or two max.”  You can’t be everything to everyone, even though everyone may want you on their team.  Prioritize outside work life too.  Giving back to the community is fantastic as long as it doesn’t mean robbing you of yourself.  I encourage you to find one passion and pursue it with gusto.

Last step:  find out what’s meaningful to your family.  We spend most of our time at work, and the added time for the daily commute, the after-hours emails and the like add on to time away from family.  That means we need to maximize the bang for the buck.  A mentor used to tell me, “Ask your kids what means most to them and then re-ask every year.”  That’s great advice for prioritizing which family activities are the most important.  I might feel bad about missing a practice my child doesn’t care about, but she might love for me to take her to school when that doesn’t really take any extra time out of my day.  Focus on activities that can make the biggest impact on your family.  Ask each family member what means the most to them and see what they say, then try to make that one thing happen.

Kurt Tucholsky was nothing if not an idealist. But what he depicts in his poetry is far from easy to obtain, and in reality we are seldom privy to such luxuries as wealth, servants, and bottomless wine (although we can only hope).  What we can do is focus on what is important and prioritize accordingly.  Work, family, and personal needs all need to find balance in your life. Be prepared to let some things fall off the radar.  And, be okay with your own version of the ideal.

Read the rest of this entry »
Feb
6
2014
7:15 pm

Year Up gives young Atlantans a leg up

A recent study found that Atlanta had the worst income mobility in the U.S. and young Atlantans from low-income households have just a 13 percent chance of moving into the top 40 percent of earners.

Fortunately, there is an organization in Atlanta working to improve these odds. Year Up provides young adults with the skills, support and real-world experience they need to close the opportunity divide through internships at local businesses.

This year, two young women interned at Gas South, where they developed the critical job skills they need to join the workforce.

Jomicka Green and Liliana Tapia are Gas South’s first Year Up interns, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome.

I believe Year Up training can make candidates a better fit for our company and it helps mitigate the normal hiring risk we see day to day. I wish every young person we hire could go through this class.

While programs like Year Up help companies avoid hiring mistakes, it also gives young adults, who may have a difficult time moving up the economic ladder, the opportunity of a brighter future.

Liliana told me that she had to prioritize and either stay with Year Up and be something or stay with the hostess job and be nothing. She decided she had nothing to lose. I commend Liliana and Jomicka for their determination and tenacity. And we thank Year Up for creating this incredibly successful program!

For more information on Year Up, visit the organization’s website or check out a recent article published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Read the rest of this entry »
Oct
29
2013
4:28 pm

Disney on Ice comes to Atlanta

Disney on Ice came to Atlanta and Gas South was excited to partner with Feld Entertainment to provide dozens of local families with special needs children a great night out to enjoy the on-ice extravaganza, featuring all of the favorites like Donald, Mickey and Minnie.

Prior to the show, our guests, who were selected by some of our Alliance partners, were treated to a pizza party and a special meet and greet with the costumed cast. It was the perfect start to a great evening, in which our Disney friends (and villains) skated through sets of winter wonderlands, haunted houses, a royal ball, and a medley of other fairytale scenarios. We hope this special night was a memorable one for the families in attendance and we look forward to next year!

Read the rest of this entry »
Oct
8
2013
5:20 pm

Bring the Heat – 2013

The Braves and Gas South present UWGA with $31,000

Velvet Washington with Gas South and Carley Jacobs with the United Way of Greater Atlanta

Few people are called to take to the turf at Turner Field, and those lucky enough are typically Major League Baseball players and officials. There was, however, one notable exception to the rule prior the last regular-season finale between the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies, Velvet Washington, a Gas South employee.

Velvet was the toast of ‘The Ted’ for a few memorable moments as she presented the United Way of Greater Atlanta (UWGA) with a hefty $31,000 check from Gas South as part of our Bring the Heat campaign with the Braves.

What’s Bring the Heat? Every time a Braves pitcher records a regular season strikeout, Gas South donates $25 to the UWGA. For the record, the Braves’ regular season strikeout total for 2013 was 1232 (note to all you mathematicians, we rounded our donation up by $200 to make an even $31,000).

Since 2008, Bring the Heat has contributed more than $200,000 to local nonprofits as part of Gas South’s Hometown Value promise to advance the communities in which we live, work and serve. While the campaign is officially over for 2013, Gas South is already looking forward to continuing Bring the Heat next year. Go Braves!

Read the rest of this entry »
Aug
19
2013
2:43 pm

Gas South 101: Teaching middle school students about natural gas and household finance

Gas South is thrilled to be part of the Junior Achievement of Georgia’s Chick-fil-A Discovery Center – a $15 million state-of-the art, brand-new interactive experience designed to educate kids about financial literacy and adult responsibilities.

More than 30,000 local middle school students from Atlanta Public, DeKalb County, Fulton County and Marietta City school systems are expected to visit the center in downtown Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center, with doors opening for business on August 20.

What will the unique experience entail? A hands-on learning environment in which kids tackle the ins and outs of managing money. From creating household budgets to making investment decisions, an 18-course classroom curriculum covers many aspects of personal finance, with students then given the opportunity to practice these concepts in real-life scenarios.

That’s where we come in! JA Finance Park, part of the center’s experience, features mock storefronts where students learn to plan for and budget their monthly expenses — including utilities like natural gas.

We’ve spent weeks perfecting our Gas South store, which features an educational wall display to teach students where natural gas comes from, how it is used throughout our community and in our everyday lives. A mock natural gas pipeline and an actual gas meter are included so students learn how natural gas reaches their home and how consumption is measured. We also provide great energy-saving tips that we hope they will share at home.

We’re honored to have the opportunity to help kids master an important life skill. For more information on the Chick-fil-A Junior Achievement Discovery Center, click here. For more information on Gas South community initiatives and updates, visit us on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/GasSouth.

Read the rest of this entry »
Jul
31
2013
7:08 pm

Gas South packs 1,000 summer lunches for Action Ministries

This month, Gas South employees packed nearly 1,000 lunches for Action Ministries’ Smart Lunch, Smart Kid program, which provides summer lunches to children who typically receive free lunch during the school year.  Everyone contributed by bringing peanut butter and jelly, while Gas South donated lunch bags and other supplies. Many employees even invited their own kids to help out!

We also wrote special notes on the bags for the kids to read when they received their lunch.

The break room at our company’s headquarters turned into an assembly line of bread, peanut butter, jelly and a stack of potato chips so high our employees had to stand on their toes to reach the top. Kevin Greiner, our CEO, had a spot in the assembly line and proved to be a whiz with the peanut butter and jelly!

This past week, team members at our call center held a similar event to pack more lunches for the program to help reach our goal of feeding 1,000 children in July.

For the second year in a row, Gas South pledged to help Action Ministries’ Smart Lunch, Smart Kid program meet its goal of providing 200,000 lunches to Georgia children who typically receive free or reduced-price lunches during the school year. With school out for the summer, many of these kids are at risk of going hungry. Action Ministries and Gas South are working to address this problem and provide kids with the nutrition they need.

Gas South is dedicated to helping the communities we serve through our Gas South Cares program. To learn more about Gas South Cares and our community efforts, click here.

Have you volunteered for Smart Lunch, Smart Kid yet? Learn how to get involved here!

Read the rest of this entry »
Jul
26
2013
11:44 am

Gas South honored by COVA for community service efforts

At Gas South, we are committed to giving back to the communities we serve. That means taking part in social service projects, partnering with local schools, and sponsoring community events. It’s a part of an initiative we call Gas South Cares.

I’m thrilled to report that our efforts have been recognized. Gas South was recently named Corporation of the Year by the Council of Volunteer Administrators (COVA) of Metropolitan Atlanta.

Gas South was nominated for the award by the Georgia chapter of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, one of the oldest and largest charitable organizations in Georgia.

COVA, a nonprofit membership organization of volunteer administrators founded in 1972, awards the Corporation of the Year award to businesses that have expressed a commitment to promoting volunteerism within the workforce.

The award recognizes Gas South employees’ dedication to reinvesting in the hometown community of our company.

Gas South received the award at COVA’s annual meeting, which took place in June. John Berry, president and CEO of Saint Vincent de Paul Georgia, gave the keynote address.

Guests also participated in a silent auction, with all proceeds providing funding for grants to help COVA members attend conferences and professional development workshops.

 

Read the rest of this entry »
Jun
7
2013
12:09 pm

Gas South teams up with Action Ministries to help our neighbors in need

Some of our employees at 11Alive packing sandwiches for Smart Lunch, Smart Kid. (From left: Karen, Kim, Wakeeta, Catherine, Vaughn and Greg)

As part of our Gas South Cares program, we are once again partnering with Action Ministries to provide healthy lunches to needy kids this summer. A staggering 700,000 Georgia children are at risk of going hungry this year and we believe it’s our duty to do what we can to assist our neighbors in need.

Action Ministries’ Smart Lunch, Smart Kid program connects local kids who receive free or reduced-price lunches during the school year with healthy meals and educational enrichment opportunities during the summer months.

This summer, Gas South is volunteering time and resources to help Action Ministries serve as many kids as possible. Gas South has donated $10,000 and 10,000 lunch bags to Smart Lunch, Smart Kid. We kicked off the program on Wednesday with 11Alive and plan to pack 1,000 lunches at our offices next month to contribute to this great cause.

The Smart Lunch, Smart Kid program reaches children in Athens-Clarke, Butts, Carroll, Columbia, DeKalb, Fayette, Floyd, Fulton, Hall and Richmond counties. The goal: serving 200,000 lunches over the next few months.

Packing lunches with 11Alive employees

Read the rest of this entry »
Apr
18
2013
10:44 am

SweetWater’s 420 Fest is THIS weekend!

Looking for something fun to do this weekend? Celebrate Earth Day at SweetWater’s 420 Fest in Atlanta’s historic Candler Park. SweetWater has long been a valued Gas South customer, one that shares our values when it comes to environmental stewardship and giving back to the communities we serve, so we are happy to sponsor this great event. The music festival, now in its fourth year, kicks off on Friday afternoon and runs through Sunday. There will be an area for the kids to run around in and plenty of delicious SweetWater on tap for the adults. It’s sure to be a great time!

Gas South will once again be sponsoring Planet 420, a special section of the festival featuring a live music stage and an area where you can learn about the amazing work being done by local nonprofit organizations.

Stop by Planet 420 on Saturday and Sunday for Gas South’s 2nd Annual “Cornhole Challenge.” Never heard of cornhole? It’s like horseshoes. The object of the game is to toss a beanbag into a hole on a raised wooden platform. Read more about the rules of game here.

On Saturday, the Cornhole Challenge is open to all festival-goers. Just form a team, make a $20 donation, and start tossing. On Sunday, the competition really heats up with many of Atlanta’s nonprofit organizations vying for the coveted title of Gas South’s Charity Cornhole Champion. The winning group will receive the proceeds from Saturday’s tournament – an amount that will be matched by Sweetwater and Gas South.

The party starts at 4:20 on Friday. We encourage all guests to take Marta, as parking is limited around the park. Admission is free, but if you wish to enjoy SweetWater’s famous drafts, you must purchase a $5 wristband with valid ID.

Now, start practicing your delicate underhand toss and join us and the folks at SweetWater in honoring Mother Earth and have fun while you do it. See you there!

Read the rest of this entry »
Mar
29
2013
5:33 pm

Women helping women: The importance of female mentors in the workplace

Two weeks ago I found myself standing at the Cobb Galleria alongside 14 women at the Northwest Georgia YWCA’s Tribute to Women. This annual event honors women who have made extraordinary contributions to family, community, charity and their professions. I felt incredibly honored and humbled to be recognized among Georgia’s most outstanding female leaders. But it also got me thinking: How did I get here?

The role of women as leaders in the workplace has become a hot topic recently. Just look at all the attention being paid to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.” I admire Sandberg and the incredibly successful career she’s built. But I know how difficult it can be for women to navigate a business world that is still dominated – for the most part – by men.

I would never have been recognized as an honoree that night without the professional (and sometimes personal) guidance and support provided by female mentors throughout my career. These incredible women helped guide me during critical periods of my career. Ellen Lindeman, a past YWCA honoree and retired head of HR at the Southern Company, helped me hone my strategic thinking and goal setting.  Vera Arthur, Senior Vice President of HR for SWM International, mentored me as part of a Pathbuilders program (great resource for developing women), providing direction during my transition from manager to executive at Gas South. Sometimes their advice addressed issues particular to women. At other times, gender was irrelevant. Looking back, it was all invaluable.

I’m fortunate now to work at Gas South, where women are well-represented at all levels – even in the executive suite three of the company’s six senior leaders are women (including me!). We foster a progressive, results-focused work place, leaving no room for any cultural baggage surrounding gender.

At this point in my career, I have transitioned from mentee to mentor, offering my counsel to young professional women as they seek to climb the ranks. Here are some of the tips that I often pass on:

Tip #1: Always dress at least one notch more formal than is required, whether in the office, at a business lunch or charity gala in order to be taken seriously.

Tip #2: Be conscious about apologizing too often. Women tend to say “sorry” too often for things that don’t really warrant an apology.

Tip #3:  If you don’t make an issue that you are a woman, it reduces the chance others will.

Tip #4: Don’t be afraid to ask someone to be your mentor. Most people are flattered and will eagerly accept. Make sure to identify a skill set you need to work on and approach a person who is influential in your line of work.

At this stage of the game, I am passionate about the importance of giving back to other women.  I encourage all, both men and women, to seek out opportunities to mentor others who are earlier on in their careers.

Read the rest of this entry »
About this blog ...