You may be as surprised as I was to find out I was invited to sit in on a board meeting. In the Chrysler Building. In New York City. Here's the story of how a crazy Mormon mother of many found herself with a security pass and a seat at the table in the company of investors and businessmen and computer geniuses.
You are all aware that my husband is a captain of industry and hob-nobs with other titans of that sort. And from time to time my company is requested to accompany the hubs as his dutiful wife/arm candy (and by arm candy that would be me over most of those many years pregnant or sporting that very fashionable accessory: the nursing baby). I am a team player and am proud of my hard-working and successful husband so I do what I can to be supportive. I am also a people person and have loved getting to know people all over the world with a wide diversity of backgrounds and experiences. Ask me sometime about the long conversation I had with Giovanni Cavollini (don't you love that name?) a big player in Italian manufacturing. Married to a lovely French woman. Homes in downtown Milan and on the French Riviera. He wanted to know about breast feeding. True story.
Day by day I have been, lo these many years, a busy mom with spit-up on my shoulder, snot on my knees and piles of laundry awaiting my attention. I take my job seriously and have given my best to the eight amazing children we were blessed with. That led me to the decision to homeschool. Homeschooling led me to a lot of trial and error in my efforts to inspire and prod and guide those children to gain light and knowledge. To make the most of their gifts and talents and to become decent human beings.
All that time I was working myself out of a job. Of course that is how we know we've done our job right: the kids leave the nest and spread their wings and fly. So I am left with just two fledglings in our nest and something I have not experienced for a good 28 years: too much quiet. When things settled down after our insane move from one coast to the other, I was left wondering "What's next?" I probably should have thought of that sooner and had a plan in place--but I was REALLY busy. So I have lately been making that a matter of pondering and inquiring of the Lord.
In the meantime, Andy asked me to meet him for a business dinner in Old Greenwich. We met at the offices of a private equity group--the ones who bought his company and hired him. We went from there to a quiet French restaurant with two of the bigwigs. What I thought would be a boring business dinner where I would nod my head and try to look interested as they all talked shop turned into a very enjoyable evening of lively conversation and discussion. We covered a whole range of topics from sports to the upcoming election which led to religion--namely Romney's religion which they knew was ours as well (you know they say "Never talk politics or religion in a business setting" ha!).
Eventually the conversation turned to the fact that I had homeschooled our youngest five children. They were both amazed that anyone would do that and were even more amazed that any of those children had gone on to college and that we had a chemical engineer and a future mechanical engineer/computer scientist as well as one with a student pilot's license. The older gentleman sitting to my right was very interested in education and volunteers his time reading to underprivileged children in rough schools. The much younger gentleman to my left told me about a business he was involved with--a platform for building learning apps. It is widely used in Japan for a program that teaches English to Japanese speakers. He asked me if he could send me information about it and then meet again to discuss possible application for home schoolers. "Sure." I said.
So, to make this long story longer, we exchanged emails and he sent me links to the company's website and I tried out all of the demos they have so far. (I shared one for geography on my facebook awhile back.) I was really impressed. Then one day last week he was talking to Andy and told him he would like me to sit in on their board meeting for the North American launch of this business. I got the invitation and information in an email and was pretty intimidated by the whole thing. The meeting was to be held on the 7th floor of the Chrysler building in midtown Manhattan. In New York City. My first instinct was to decline--I have no experience in matters of big business and I have no business walking into the Chrysler Building as if I have an important meeting to attend. But then I thought, "Why not?" I am always telling my children to try new things and enjoy the journey and seize the day and all that Mom Pep Talk stuff--why not practice what I preach?
I accepted that invitation and I got my name put on the security list and I mapquested the train station and planned out my route and tried on a hundred different variations of business attire from the contents of my closet that date back to the heyday of my corporate wife days of travel and entertaining.
Then, I settled on my best home school mom uniform: the denim jumper and pink crocs.
Luckily Shanna is here hanging out while they close on their house in North Carolina (with the ever-adorable MASON!) So she held down the fort while I ran off to the big city. I set out for the Fairfield Metro train station and saw this just down the road:
And yes, I stopped on my route to adventure and took a picture.
I love my New England neighbors.
I bought my ticket to Grand Central Station and I waited by the tracks like I had somewhere important to go. The train was on time and the sign's promise of Good Service came true. I happened to catch the Express and it whisked me into the city ahead of schedule.
I have much better luck with trains than I do with planes.
I looked up while I was in Grand Central and guess what? The zodiac is painted on the ceiling!
Look at all those people coming and going--it's like--Grand Central Station there.
I stepped through the doors of the train station and walked one block and there it was--
The majestic Chrysler Building.
I had some time to kill because in my concern for getting there on time, I had left three hours early and the express train shaved off a good 30 minutes of travel time. So I had a leisurely stroll along Lexington Avenue looking in all of the shops and doing a bit of people watching. I stepped into the DUANEreid pharmacy and picked up some cute pink nail polish. I'm wearing it even as I type. I also got a little treat at the Crumbs bakery.
I walked through the doors of the Chrysler Building 20 minutes before the appointed hour. I tried to act nonchalant, yet businesslike as I looked around for the elevator. I was instructed by the very dignified guard that I needed to check in at security. I gave the security desk person my name and he gave me my official pass. Yes! My name was on the list.
This beautiful elevator whisked me up to law offices where we were meeting.
James was there and he invited me into the board room. I'm pretty sure the table was the length of a football field. I assumed I would sit at the back somewhere and mind my own business and try not to wreck my husband's long and illustrious career with any embarrassing faux pas; but no, James introduced me to those who were there early and led me around to the chair right next to him. There was small talk and some food in the cracker and cheese category and some bottled water. I nibbled and chatted and tried not to sweat too much. More people arrived and soon the table for 25 was almost full. They also dialed in several others on a conference call. I was the only woman at first and also the only mother of eight and the only person with no real business experience--other than my almost 30 years washing the socks and making dinner for a pretty amazing businessman of course.
So the meeting began. I loved every minute of it and enjoyed the interesting cast of characters around that table and my host filled me in as things went along by leaning over and whispering random comments. There was an online demo and many pointed questions and a lot of talk of money in the multiple millions. The room got warmer and jackets came off. Finally, two hours later, someone at the far end of the table leaned back in his chair and said "It's too da(mn)ng hot in here. I think we're done." It was. And we were. I shook hands all around and James walked me out as he told me we would meet soon with his North American operations guy and discuss things further. I thanked him and he returned to the board room and I walked down the wrong hall and then played it off like I was looking for the rest room so the receptionist wouldn't think I didn't belong there.
I found the elevators and stepped in. I looked up and saw this:
They sure don't make 'em like they used to.
I walked back to Grand Central Station.
Aptly named--it does look rather grand:
I had just enough time to stop in at Magnolia Bakery and pick up a
little treat for my family.
After which I fortuitously caught the "Off Peak" express
for the ride back.
Where my supportive family greeted me with cheerful enthusiasm.
It might have been the cupcakes.
The next day I got up and did laundry.
Maybe...or To Be Continued.
I will keep you posted.