Stellar Women is delighted to launch our first crossover podcast of 2022 with our friends and partner, EDRM. In this episode, Blair and I joined Mary Mack and Kaylee Walstad to share how we have been faring the last few months (spoiler alert: we are in good spirits)! We also dove into why we are focusing on small acts of kindness this year and shared personal examples of how these acts have manifested in each of our lives.
Be sure to listen as we share what the transition back to the office has looked like for some folks, and why it is important to give your pets, spouses, children, and most importantly yourself, a little bit of grace in yet another transitional time.
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Mary Rechtoris: We have our very good friends on here, Mary Mack and Kaylee Walstad from EDRM as a continuation of our crossover podcast. Kaylee and Mary, thanks for joining Blair and me.
Mary Mack: We love being on here, Mary and Blair.
Kaylee Walstad: It is such an honor, and we look forward to this every month.
MR: Yes, we do, too. It's always wonderful to catch up. In the spirit of starting out on a positive note, why don't we do highlights of the week? To switch it up, why don't we go with you first, Mary Mack?
MM: Well, my highlight the week is it is the first Monday in, I don't know, about six weeks that I've had a calm Monday. My wife has had surgery on her foot, and it can't be weight bearing. There is a wheelchair in the house and let's just say, a lot of adjustments. But this Monday, no adjustments and no going into the doctor. It’s been a calm Monday, so I am a happy girl.
KW: That’s my highlight of the week because a calm Mary is a calm Kaylee.
MR: That's a good shirt—a calm Mary is a calm life.
Blair (Heidenreich) Cohen: Merch.
MR: Blair, what about you?
BHC: I would definitely say that mine is that I went on that Galentine's weekend that I was telling you guys about. It was just so fun. We got to connect. We got to walk on the beach and just do a whole lot of nothing except laughing and making dinner. It was just so nice and fun.
KW: Thank you for your Galentine's gift to Mary and me. It was so lovely. Next year, we’ll have to plan a Galentine’s event for the whole community.
BHC: Completely agree.
MR: My highlight is future in nature because it's one of my best friend's weddings this weekend. It's been postponed, so I'm so happy for her. I'm giving a speech.
MR: I have it memorized and I'm very confident that I won't need cards or a phone. I'm kind of taking a chance. You know, a big moment for her and a small moment for me.
KW: You know what's so fun? Thirty days ago, we did a podcast, right? Just about a month ago.
KW: Everything was locked down, and now you're going to Lincoln Park to a wedding and gathering. And Blair, you went for Galentine's Day with your friends for a fun weekend.
MR: The world's changed in a month. And I'm sure listeners, you can hear a little more pep in our steps than [before]. Maybe it’d be funny to take different clips from each of our episodes to assess our tone.
KW: I actually think we should because we've been doing this over a year every month. And the one thing and I've said this like ad nauseum, the one thing we can count on is change. We've learned as a population to be able to live in the moment like, OK, we've got today, and we have this window. We can plan for a month. We can do that. You know, I typically can't see farther than a month. And for a while in the pandemic, it was a week.
MR: Something that we’ve talked about a lot on this podcast and just in conversations with you and your community is that corporate work is changing on a global scale and beyond. Places are offering flex work so people can kind of work wherever they feel most productive. Kaylee and Mary, you were just talking about that you've been hearing that some people are required now to go back. I would love to hear what you're hearing and people's overall feelings about that.
KW: We're seeing a few firms that are mandating returned to office this month, three days a week. Pick your three days and then we're seeing some more that are saying, “OK, it's return to the office in March.” I know Norton Rose Fulbright, and my sister is a knowledge paralegal for them and she's on a national team, went back return to office last week for three days a week. One of the comments from my sister and her coworkers was so interesting. In that day one, she went into the office. She had to get up early, get herself ready, get on a bus 30 minutes later, get downtown, get into the office, and then everybody wanted to talk. She said, “I went and got donuts and Starbucks coffee, and I was talking to people. And then at the end of the day, I went back home.” She was literally exhausted and asleep by 8:30. Oh, yeah. Asleep at 8:30.
KW: Yes. She went in the next day, and she was getting ready in the morning. She has got the sweetest, sweetest cat, Milo. And she was getting ready to leave and she was like, “what is on the doormat?” Milo had left a little present, shall we say. He puked on the doormat and thought maybe she wouldn't be able to leave. And poor Milo. For people that are returning to the office, you've been home like all of us for a couple of years, right? Our pets are used to us being here. Our kids are used to us being here. I think we have to prepare for separation anxiety. And it's not that they're being naughty or bad. It's just a really huge change in shift.
MR: It's so different, I know that we have talked to some Stellar Women community members asking how do you like to start your day? Maribel Rivera's said that she likes to start her day with coffee with her husband just to catch up. I've noticed that too that working from home. Like today, I was working and was very busy with meetings. Then, I was at a workout class, and I hadn’t seen my fiancé, Brad, until we went to bed last night. He came in and said, “I haven't seen you all day.” I was like “that’s kind of weird, how are you?” Having that interaction so often, whether it's a kid or a spouse or a roommate, it's going to be so different when you're not with that individual or pet for eight, nine, or 10 hours a day.
BHC: It is interesting, Dan had a really big presentation. It was like amazing to be able to be there and be like, “hey, good luck, you're going to crush it.” And then as soon as the office door opens, it's like, “how did it go?” We've been doing that for each other. It’s interesting like I have those people at work. But yeah, it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.
MR: And the exhaustion that your sister was experiencing, I know when we’ve been into the office for Blair and me, we love it because what we're doing is really fun. We're filming and we're like seeing each other. It’s work that we both love doing. But by the time I get home, I'm like, “OK, I can do that maybe next month. After doing it two days in a row, I cannot.” I don't recall those days we did that before. I understand we're very fortunate that we're at a company where we have that flexibility now. That’s not feasible for everyone, so give yourself grace. If you do have to go in, know that it's a big adjustment. I’m doing it one day a month and it’s an adjustment for me.
KW: Just the thought of doing our big EDRM gatherings at Relativity Fest. At the last one, we had about, what do you think, Mary?
MM: I'm thinking maybe 600 or 700 people.
KW: Oh my gosh, I think I would freak.
MM: You were talking about going in and when you're there. But the getting there and once you've not had to do that, doing it again feels totally different. I mean, when I drive the same road that I that I drove for 10 years to commute, I think to myself, “how the heck did I do that for 10 years?” Now that we know something different, I think it makes that change a little bit more difficult.
MR: As we've discussed on this podcast, right now is a very interesting time. People are evaluating what they care about. I’m not saying everyone wants to return to office or others are jumping ship. Some people love the office. If you love the office, let us know your secrets.
BHC: I will say … when the shutdown happened, I panicked a little bit because I thought, “what am I going to do?” And I miss it. I don’t know if I'd go to back to the office like it is now. At Relativity, there aren't as many people. It used to be like hustle bustle of people saying, “hey!” I felt like sometimes I was in high school in between classes to see people. It's just not like that anymore, so I wonder if we'll see that change.
KW: So many of us, especially like Mary and I, who have been in the workforce for really long time, we got a chance to jump off the hamster wheel. [Laughter from Mary Mack.] I didn't say a long, long time. I just said a long … Anyway, we jumped off the hamster wheel of that work life. I think a lot of people have found balance with their family and balance with their time. They’ve found more mindfulness instead of feeling like I was running from this to that, like oh, my kids would pick me up at the airport. Now, we're going to go out to dinner and all that. I'm going to do this and I'm going back next week. I'm going to another place. It was what you did and that was normal. And I think that my sister's comment was interesting in that everybody wanted to talk, go get a donut, and go to Starbucks. She found a lot of people in her office and when they got home, they had to do work to catch up because they weren't as productive.
MM: Wait a minute, it is work to connect with their colleagues on a human level, and not playing catch up from all the time. We missed the team cohesion and all of that. But it's work that's not budgeted for.
MR: It’s work that's not budgeted for, and it's hard to show the value of. I know all of us on this call and in general, we are busy bees. We like to check things off the checklist. You get a lot done and you're like, “wow.” I found in the office; you would have those organic conversations. But when they would happen for a little bit on Zoom, I'd be like, “ok, let's get to the point. Like, I need to move on.” I found myself viewing it as superfluous. Is that the word? I didn't see that work as career building, and I let that fall to the wayside. And then I've realized, you know, not only for my own role at Relativity as a producer, but like Mary as a professional and Mary as a human, it's important to prioritize relationships. That's what sustains me and motivates me. So, I think that's a valid point, Mary, because sometimes I have to remind myself that getting coffee with somebody in a different department is just as if not more important than the article, I need to do later that week.
BHC: You can't really place a dollar amount on a team that has synergy. When you have a team that's working and understands each other and gets it, there is no price on that, right?
MR: Something I know too we want to talk about this year are acts of kindness. I have an update for you all, which I'll also be putting into my acts of kindness. For those that didn't hear on our earlier episode crossover episode, which we kicked off with Mary and Kaylee, check it out on the EDRM podcast, which we’ll link to in our show notes. What we're doing is talking about small acts of kindness that have meant a lot to us. I think if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that those small moments really matter. I'll try to keep my update concise because I want to get to everybody else's acts. Long story short, in therapy, my therapist suggested I could have some symptoms of ADHD. With the diabetes and then the anxiety, I was like, “no, no, no. Let's not add to my repertoire of health conditions.” But long story short, I had an evaluation and saw a psychiatrist. Your girl does have ADHD. So, my act of kindness is really all the amazing support I've received from my fiancé, friends, family, Blair, and my colleagues. I’m just very thankful to have them there as I'm figuring it all out. If anyone in the community is facing anything similar, please reach out. I’m totally happy to share what has or hasn't worked for me or just be a listening ear. It's helpful to have someone to confide in, so feel free to DM me on LinkedIn. I am more than happy to chat.
KW: I love that you shared that, Mary. Both you and Blair have been so courageous throughout the pandemic on our podcast. I think the one message that has been really clear is people aren't alone. We all have stuff, right? The pandemic has made our stuff at times more challenging than others. I Iove these conversations. Thank you.
MR: Of course. And thanks for saying that, Kaylee. Why don't we go to you? What's your act of kindness this episode?
KW: Well, I actually have two. One would be waking up on Monday morning to an email saying, “You haven't redeemed your Starbucks gift yet.” That was the first email I got. I clicked on it, and I see “Happy Galentine’s Day from Blair Heidenreich and Mary Rechtoris.” And it's not the amount; it's the thought. It strikes me you don't have to do much but doing something. I loved that it was a Galentine’s Day-themed since you guys turned us on to that whole thing. I can't even tell you that kicking off a Monday like that did my heart good. I just am deeply grateful that you guys are just such wonderful friends and partners. I am personally grateful for both of you in my life.
MR: We're so grateful for you.
BHC: Right back at you.
KW: My second is my son has been doing little random acts of kindness. I know I'm going to find out that he's going to want something, but I don't care. I'm going to take them while I get them. He surprised me with Cheesecake Factory and my favorite cheesecake. He was like, “here you go, mom. Surprise!” And today I was getting ready to do the podcast, and he's working from home today. He said, “I'm going to go get us lunch and bring it home. I'm getting your favorite Culver's burger and fries.” And I was like, “yay!” You know, obviously it's just food and coffee.
MR: That’s all you need, Kaylee.
BHC: I love Cheesecake Factory and Culver’s.
MR: Both of those are busy, so you know, he's like waiting in line. It’s not a quick ordeal, right?
KW: And a new one just opened up literally down the street from us, so it's dangerous for both of us. But I'm like, “give me a butter burger and the crinkle fries.”
MR: What a treat for Wednesday. I love that. What about you, Mary Mack?
MM: I will continue with the food theme. I’ve been gifted some meals during the caregiving thing. I have sent things to people in situations where you normally drop off a hot dish, as Kaylee and Minnesotans would call it. I didn't realize how it felt until getting it. It was very, very, very thoughtful. It makes a difference to somebody who's taking care of somebody.
KW: Mary, you're not telling the biggest back story, though. Who has been the cook for the last, what, five weeks?
MM: Oh yeah, that would be me.
MR: Are you not usually the cook?
MM: I am not usually the cook. I am remedial in the kitchen, but I'm learning. I have some standbys. I asked our son, Peter, for two nights to cook instead of me cooking for everybody. That made sense under the circumstances. He couldn't because his job often has interruptions, but what he has been doing is randomly dropping off dinners. That is a gift in and of itself, and it’s not scheduled, but it's what you can do. It’s what a person can do.
MR: It's always interesting who shows up. It is sometimes the people you wouldn't always expect. Blair, what about you?
BHC: We did a Secret Cupid instead of Secret Santa at our Galentine's Day weekend. One of my best friends had me and I obviously didn't know she did. So, before the event, I was like, “oh my gosh, I just put in this this Nordstrom order. Look at this stuff.” She was like, “gorgeous, I love it all.” Then at the event, I opened one of the tops she got me, and it was the one I bought. It was just so great. I was like, “man, my friends really know me.” It was funny. I mean, I was a little bit like, “oh my gosh, I can't believe I was just bragging about this today as she’s like ‘oh, great.’”
MM: You said something important, Blair, that your friends know you. They see you. They know you and they get you. That in and of itself is a huge act of kindness.
BHC: We had so many heart to hearts. There’s bound to be some where there is wine, and a hot tub involved. And you know, it was amazing. I've recently lost like 100 pounds in the last year. Sometimes I get in my head about stuff and they're just like, “hey, we loved you just as much now as we did then.” They really know me for like who I am, and it's something again, you can't put a dollar amount on.
MM: Mary and Kaylee, as always, thank you so much for joining us.
MM: Thank you, guys. Great discussion.
KW: We absolutely love this.