On a recent Sunday, I went to Phoenix with my mom. She is an accomplished fiber artist who was asked to take part in a TV show highlighting her art quilts. The taping happened on Monday, and we flew home on Tuesday. It was a whirlwind trip, but one that left my heart full and my memory book with another beautiful chapter.

Judy and the film crew setting up the quilts for a shot.
Judy and the film crew setting up the quilts for a shot.

This was also the first time that I went on PTO without my laptop. (Insert gasp!)

Before I left, I had a conversation with my leader, Judy. She is an amazing Cisco leader who walks the talk when it comes to Cisco Conscious Culture.

On Friday, I said to Judy, “I’m going to leave my laptop home.”

I paused as she listened.

She replied with, “Excellent! Leave it right there in the docking station.”

I paused again and then said, “Ok, but really, I’m going to do it.”

She replied with, “YES, I mean it. Leave it.”

So, I did.

What came next was what I hope everyone reading will try.

When you go on PTO, leave that laptop behind.

I experienced what we all talk about — being fully present. I was able to talk to my mom over lunches, in our hotel room, and give her my full attention listening to her talk about her art.

Even more special was that I learned more about my family. She was chosen to be on this show to highlight how storytelling is woven into the pieces she creates.

“She Loved to Sew” quilt art piece.

One of the art quilts she made is called “She Loved to Sew.”  It has always been one of my favorite pieces. The quilt has a photo of my grandmother as a young child standing in front of my great-grandfather’s awning shop in New York. It is covered in buttons at the bottom of the quilt.

My great-grandfather opened the shop when he immigrated to the United States. My grandmother worked there.

She loved sewing and wanted to go to college to learn more about it. To raise money, she entered a button design contest and won.

My mom shared with the show host that as she was working on this piece, she decided not to cut the threads between the buttons, as they represented the ways that the events in our life connect. I sat completely immersed in her story, with a big smile and tears in my eyes, knowing how proud my grandmother would have been to see her daughter highlighted this way.

As the crew worked to set up the next segment of the show, one of the social media producers came over to me and showed me a photo she had taken.

She said, “I had to show you this photo. It’s of you watching your mom. It’s so clear how proud you are of her and the connection you have.”

More tears came to my eyes. I thanked her.

Rachel C. smiles while observing her mother being interviewed on camera.
Watching the interview

Later that night, as my mom and I recounted the day over a well-deserved frozen yogurt, I thought to myself how glad I was that I did not bring my laptop. I could have missed that moment by doing the famous “multi-tasking” and “getting caught up.” I could have found a room at the site to work while my mom did the taping. Instead, I was part of a moment where I learned more about my family, supported my mom, and was truly present in the moment.

I also thought about how sad I would have been if that photo included me working instead of listening to her story.

When I got back to work, Judy and I had a great conversation, and I shared stories from my adventure.

And as it should be, after I shared, we got back to work. Right where we left off.

I know everyone may not feel like when they take PTO, that they can leave the laptop behind, but taking the opportunity to be fully present with your family and friends truly matters. I am grateful that my leader encouraged and supported me to do it!

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Rachel and her mother Judy eating foryo in a car.


Rachael Chambers

Director, Strategy and Planning

People and Communities