To My Mom and All Moms on Mothers Day: Thank You !!!

I wrote this a couple of years ago, and I try to remember to put it up again every year at Mothers Day.  I know that Moms differ in their talents, and their caring, and their concern and involvement, but when Moms get it right, there are no better or more important people in the world.  My Mom – Patty, PWL, Patrishka – got it right.  To Patty and to all good Moms, you’re the best.

I love my Mom, and if you know my Mom you will know why.  She lived on her own until a couple of years ago, but then she gave up her driver’s license and started to get lonely and sad.  So now she lives with me.

But this isn’t a story about my Mom; it’s a story about Moms.

Because now I get to be a Mom to my Mom.  And being a Mom is something else.

Here is what you get to do, if you’re a Mom:

You prepare three meals a day.  You make sure they’re nutritious.  You make sure they’re interesting.  You plan and go shopping.  If you’re not going to be home for a meal, you prepare something ahead, or leave instructions for the daycare lady.

You prepare and serve food in clean pots and dishes, and then they’re dirty.  You wash them, dry them, put them away, take them out and start over.  Over and over and over, day after day after day.

You vacuum.  You dust.  You clean sinks and toilets.  And then someone tracks in some dirt, leaves a soap ring in the bathroom, spills a glass of juice.  And so you start over.  These jobs do not end.  You do them over and over and over.  They are not rewarding.

You wash clothes.  And sheets and pillowcases, and towels and washcloths.  You fold them and put them away.  People get them dirty, so you do it again.  And again.  And again.  You make the doctor’s and dentist’s appointments, and make sure people get there.  You make sure there’s money in the bank, and pay the bills.

You don’t get any sick days.  You can have a miserable cold, or the flu, or a broken leg, but being a Mom doesn’t go away.  Those people who rely on you, they still rely on you, and they are lost without you.  You can have one foot in the grave, but the other will be pushing the vacuum cleaner or going to the store.

You are always on your game.  If someone is down, you find a way to make them laugh.  If someone is sick, you find a way to make them feel better.  If someone needs to talk, you listen.  If someone needs company, you talk.  You don’t get to have a bad day, because someone else is relying on you to make their day good.  You don’t get to show anger, or frustration, or impatience.  You are the rock on which all waves break.

You compromise your career.  You tell your boss, I cannot make that meeting, I don’t have coverage; I cannot make that trip, I can’t be away that long.  You arrive at work later, and you leave earlier.  You try to do work at home, but then someone at home needs your attention.  Other people at work, who are not Moms, their careers stay on fast track.  Yours stagnates.

My own Mom gave up 25 years of her life, and her career, to be a Mom.  She was on course to be one of the first women executives at Time, when Time was the most powerful media company in America.  She chucked that, to cook, and wash dishes, and clean the house, and do the shopping, and make the doctor’s appointments, and wash underwear.  To be a Mom.

I have learned many things, being a Mom to my Mom.

I have learned that being a Mom is the most frustrating, boring, stupid, repetitive, tedious, day-to-day the least rewarding thing I have ever done.

I have learned that being a Mom to someone I love is the most satisfying, valuable, by far the most challenging and rewarding thing I have ever done.

I have learned that Moms – not me, but real Moms, to real kids – are the most the most generous, loving, caring, thoughtful, capable, the most fantastic people in the world.

To my Mom – Patty – and to all Moms on Mother’s Day:  Thank you, you are the best.

Sustainability and Profit Collide in a Coffee Cup

I had the opportunity recently to attend a talk by the Chief Sustainability Officer from Keurig Green Mountain, the K-Cup company.  If you’re old enough and from New England, you’ll remember Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, which was a smallish sort-of high-end coffee distributor in the 80s and 90s.  In 2000 they had $84 Million in sales, almost all of it from selling coffee in bulk.  Then they had the good fortune to stumble onto the K-Cup, and the good sense to patent it.  And by 2015 Keurig Green Mountain had sales of $4.5 Billion, almost all of it from selling K-Cups and Keurig Machines.   They are, by far, the top-selling brand of coffee in America.  Through the end of 2016 they had sold more than 57 billion K-Cups, and more than 60 million Keurig machines.

They wish to be known for their commitment to Sustainability.  If you go to their website, “Sustainability” is the first word written at the very top of their home page, and their “About Us” is filled with stories of their environmental and social accomplishments.

The talk I attended focused on recycling, and how Keurig Green Mountain was working hard to figure out how to recycle the K-Cup.  The Sustainability person said it was a difficult challenge.  There’s the plastic cup, and the wet coffee, and the top that is aluminum foil and plastic.  It’s not easy to take the top off, because of course it can’t be easy to take the top off, because the last thing you want is the top of your K-Cup coming off in the machine, or in your hands on the way to the trash bin.  The K-Cup is the ultimate single-service, non-recyclable consumer commodity.  In fact, that’s the whole point.  Pre-portioned, spill-proof, no mess, no fuss; use it and throw it away.

There’s an easy solution.  I have it in front of me, here on my desk.  It’s a little K-Cup sized filter, which I bought at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  You fill it with coffee and shut the lid (takes about ten seconds), pop it in your Keurig Machine just like a K-Cup, and when it’s finished brewing you open the lid, dump out the coffee grounds, and rinse the filter (depending on how far to the nearest sink, takes maybe 30 seconds).  And reuse it again, and again, and again.  And again, and again, and again.  Recycling is irrelevant; you can reuse this K-Filter practically forever.

I listened to that talk by the young woman who is the Chief Sustainability Officer at Keurig Green Mountain, and I was grievously tempted to raise my hand and say, “Excuse me, but I have the solution sitting on my desk, a little K-sized filter, which anyone can buy right now at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  Certainly you know about this solution.  Why are you not talking about it?”

I did not ask that question because the honest answer would have been really uncomfortable for that nice young woman.  Because the honest answer, of course, is “We have ridden the K-Cup to become the largest coffee distributor in America.  We control the technology, and so we control whose coffee goes into the K-Cup.  Our coffee, or coffee licensed by us.  Your K-Filter, Mr. Lennon, can be filled with anyone’s coffee.  It would be financial folly to promote a product like that, which cuts Keurig out of the K-Cup.”

She would not have said that, of course.  She would have had a pre-programmed answer to my question.  Whatever it might have been, it would have been equally uncomfortable, because dishonest.

I’m really glad I am not the Chief Sustainability Officer at Keurig Green Mountain, or any other big company.  For those companies, Sustainability is a nice concept, and if it doesn’t hurt sales and profits, and particularly if it can be turned to competitive advantage, then hell yes, they’re all for Sustainability.  But management is responsible to shareholders, and the numbers shareholders see and care most about are measured in dollars – not in pounds of plastic kept out of the landfill, or tons of coffee composted, or pounds of aluminum recycled.  In a profit- and growth-driven economy, that’s just the way it is.  If the goose that’s laying the golden eggs is a dirty goose, and the eggs are dirty eggs, you can hire an egg-polisher and give them a title like “Chief Sustainability Officer.”  But in the end it’s the gold that counts.