I am re-sharing a post I wrote in 2015, inspired by my horror at the #DroughtShaming I learned about among California neighbors. It’s an important reminder that community relationships are fragile and it is in our ability to nurture them.
PR Lessons from DroughtShaming
I have a confession to make.
I used to be an anonymous “PoorlyProofed” contributor on Twitter.
Eventually, I started feeling guilty for anonymously calling people out.
I hate typos as much as the next person, but I started to feel that the negativity behind my tweets was weighing me down.
(It doesn’t stop at PoorlyProofed, admittedly. I even blogged about someone who misspelled “angel” on a luminaria MEMORIALIZING THEIR LOVED ONE WHO DIED OF CANCER.)
But it’s a new day, a new year, and perhaps I have evolved.
I have evolved to the point that I have reached a critical mass in my tolerance for anonymous finger-pointing on Twitter.
When I was listening to a recent radio story about DroughtShaming, I couldn’t help but feel that this effort was not going to end well.
The drought conditions in California, and the civic actions that have been taken to try to mitigate the effects of the drought, have resulted in the birth of the DroughtShaming hashtag (#droughtshaming).
There’s even an app.
The citizen reporter stands at the offending area, and GPS knows where they are, so the report already includes the address along with the alleged infraction.
Most people will agree that measures need to be taken to deal with the drought conditions in California.
When I see the glee with which some people use DroughtShaming, though, I have to wonder if their motives are altruistic.
I mean, what are the homeowners’ association meetings going to be like for these neighbors in the future?
Distrust Does Not Build Community Relationships
My husband and I were on the receiving end of a summons three years ago for “high grass.”
We deserved the summons. I won’t argue that.
Our lawnmower had broken, my husband was out of a job, and we did not have the money to fix the lawnmower.
Because the report was made anonymously, there was no way of knowing who had filed it.
I kept wishing whoever had filed the report had offered to let us use their lawnmower instead.
It wasn’t that we WANTED our yard to be an eyesore.
Admittedly, my feelings probably would have been hurt if I had been approached directly by a neighbor, even if they were offering a lawnmower, but after the summons incident, I have always been asking myself“was it YOU?” when interacting with my neighbors.
Distrust among neighbors does not build a caring community.
Positively Solve Problems
As communicators, we can play a role in more positively solving problems such as the drought-measure compliance.
Connecting: One of the first pieces of strategy has to be to foster a “we’re all in this together” vibe. California is not going to be in drought conditions forever. The day will come when it will not be news that someone is watering their lawn. We need to help people realize a mutual goal of creating a pleasant community is bigger than the issue of sprinklers.
Acknowledge the Issue: I don’t mean to flit around rejoicing that drought is front and center as a problem. Some events are inevitable in the life of a community. If it wasn’t drought, maybe it would be a proliferation of invasive plants, too much rain, or a strike by municipal workers such as the waste management staff. Be clear that drought is a true issue. Don’t gloss over it.
Encouraging Constructive Action: Getting your neighbors fined or using civic resources to write up tickets has little probability of bringing rain down from the sky or of preserving what little water you do have. As a community, you may be at half time of your water management game, but you can still win if you have the right plays.
How can we, as communicators, help keep the civility reservoir full rather than drain it dry?
It is Easter today, and I am not in the mental mindset to write either something sentimental or something candy-related. I feel like changing things up a little bit, and doing it in advance of Easter so I can enjoy the day Sunday.
I abandoned “Write a story about a serial killer who leaves his (or her) clues in Easter eggs” (I don’t want to get that twisted.)
Write a story where one of the main characters is a professional artist who made him/herself famous by designing Easter eggs.
Write a story that begins with a modern-day pastor being time warped to the time when Jesus was resurrected.
My hilarious friends had lots of suggestions, reminding me that “little bunny foo foo was a serial killer” (technically true!) and somehow devolving into twerking bunnies.
In the clearer light of day, let’s consider what our crazy cat, Bella, actually does when she escapes.
An Easter Adventure
For context, Bella is (ahem) an indoor cat. She has developed a codependency, however, with my father-in-law, who goes in and out of our French doors many (many!) times a day to smoke his cigars. I’ve tried lots of methods of trying to keep her in, but sometimes it just doesn’t work. There are birds to chase and there’s grass to smell, after all!
<<<cue mysterious ghostly suspenseful music here>>>
One day, Bella escaped as she had done so many times before.
“She’ll come back,” my husband and I said to each other, something we have said hundreds of times before which had always proven true. After all, the lure of her food bowl eventually wins.
The night before Easter, we were exhausted. I had gotten up early to volunteer at the water stop for the Palace Saloon Race. Wayne, as usual, was snoring away. My father-in-was in whatever land a combination of Percocet and Ativan gets you to, and my son was still out with his girlfriend.
To keep trying to lure Bella in or go to bed?
The bed won.
When I woke up Easter morning, the first order of business was (as usual), pressing “brew” on the Keurig. When the house’s quiet registered, I realized Alice Cooper, our other cat, was the only feline begging me for food.
WHERE WAS BELLA?
I was kicking myself for all those times I thought “I really should make her wear a collar with a tag that has identification on it.” Was she gone for good?
It is hard for me to relax about Bella. As my husband reminds me often, I am the family member who gets most stressed about her disappearances. It’s a long story but the bottom line is: she is my daughter’s cat, she brings us all happiness (when she isn’t destroying the furniture), and I don’t want her to disappear on my watch.
As the coffee finished brewing and the caffeine started infiltrating my system, I got distracted by my usual morning routine of checking email and social media.
Happy Easter! Wished so many friends on social media.
Easter wishes on a screen weren’t quite cutting it. I missed all the years when I was growing up when my parents would have my place at the table set with an elaborate Easter basket I could admire before getting dressed for church. I missed all the excited years of my children’s Easters: candy, dressing up, the famous bonnet contest at church.
This year, all I had to look forward to was giving some chocolate and cards to my husband and son (I had sent Tenley her Easter goodies in advance), and the inevitable first question of the day from my father-in-law: “anyone got a pain pill?”
Since no one else was up yet, I headed outside to get the newspaper.
Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted lavender. WEIRD. Upon further inspection, in the hedges by the mailbox was a plastic easter egg. HMMM. Maybe the Tallahassee Democrat had found the one way to reach out to me that didn’t involve me having to hunt for a password I couldn’t remember. I tucked the egg in my pocket and brought the paper into my house.
Still feeling a little out of sorts, I decided to treat myself to an everything bagel. I grabbed one out of the freezer, wrapped it in a paper towel, and opened the microwave to defrost the bagel.
HMMM. The microwave was NOT. EMPTY. Two mint green eggs stared back at me. Maybe my son had developed a penchant for holiday observances (hey, 17 isn’t too late to learn!) and spread treats throughout the house for me. I placed the mint green eggs with the lavender egg in a bowl.
Wishing I had bought orange juice to have with my everything bagel, I resigned myself to an oj-free breakfast and opened the refrigerator door to grab butter.
NOW THIS IS GETTING STRANGE, I thought. A pint of pulp-free orange juice had hopped into my fridge. There was no way it had been there the day before.
As I got dressed for church, my mind was tossing around the possible origins of the eggs and the orange juice. I didn’t dare mention it to my husband – it sounded so bizarre.
I stopped by my laptop to take a peek at my social media before we left for church. Where the heck did *this* screen saver come from?
And the rainbow of Peeps (my favorite) and chocolate bunny so beautifully packaged (packaging matters) in my chair?
*meow* came a feline voice from the porch.
It turns out Bella’s latest adventure had been more about bunnies than birds.
And an Easter “Cat”astrophe was not a catastrophe at all.
Someone got a bowl *brimming* with food after her big adventure.
Prompted by Mama Kat, though, a look at six hot topics in my Facebook world proves there’s more to my Facebook family than birth announcements and goodbyes to beloved pets.
Our Embattled Health Care
While I recognize that the Affordable Care Act is flawed, I also firmly believe The American Health Care Act was in no way a suitable replacement.
Having worked for Florida Healthy Kids for almost 20 years, I became a diehard believer in the power of preventive care, in the potential that can be unlocked if someone thinks out of the box and people with the patience to slog through the mind-numbing details of crafting federal policy and budgets follow up.
This is one of the graphics I received via my fellow advocates at I Stand with Planned Parenthood yesterday and posted to my wall prior to the failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act:
#StandWithPP is (quoting from them): “A group of social media influencers across platforms – from Twitter to YouTube to blogs – saying together #StandWithPP to ensure that women have access to health care services that range from cancer screenings to birth control.” To join, complete this form.
The Emergence of Female Political Candidates, Especially at the Local Level
When I pulled up the Emerge America site while looking for a stat to use about the number of women entering the political arena (especially local) in the wake of the presidential election, I wanted to act on every single action point of the #WhySheRuns effort to increase the number of women running for office (with the exception of running myself), such as sharing the graphic below immediately.
While there are traditional still photos of Nicolette and her awesome family on her campaign Facebook page, this picture, to me, best represents what women can do these days to make a difference: talk to people. Explain how to be a part of government. Overcome fears, objections, inertia. Talk. To people.
Nicolette hosts an advocacy training for the Lake Nona Democrats.
If you knew your kids were actually time travelers who will eventually go back in time and become your parents, how would that change your parenting?
Aaaaaaaaaand I freaked out. I have always said that I imagine I overcompensated in my parenting for the issues that I took to the therapist’s couch, and I imagine that overcompensation in itself will give my kids plenty of material for their own therapeutic relationships.
It’s probably unfair to my kids to delve too deeply into this. For starters, I suspect Tenley would create a much more orderly, clean, environment in which I as a daughter would wear more monograms and less “wow! doesn’t this quirky piece from Goodwill make you feel unique?” items. With Wayne Kevin as a parent, no one would get all worked up about the thousand and one administrative details of life; we would be too glued to YouTube.
Why Neal’s Mom Should Pay $120 For Great Tennis Shoes
My Facebook friend Neil Kramer asked Facebook Nation for help convincing his mom to indulge in proper footwear:
Please tell my mother that she deserves $120 New Balance sneakers if they are good for her feet.
Sounds like Neil’s mom is has a vein of the same self-sacrificing, frugal constitution that my parents have. $120 is, sadly, run of the mill for proper walking shoes these days. Honestly, if I had $120 I would have shipped them to her the minute I saw the post. I suspect the issue isn’t having the $120 to spend but her aversion to spending it “gasp!” ON SHOES.
Just do it, Neil’s Mom. I am sure you deserve it. As I told Neil, go to RoadrunnerSports.Com, and get a special deal on day one of visiting the website ($25 off a $75 or more order) as well as the option of their 90-day return policy, where you can return shoes no matter how worn within 90 days if they don’t work out (for credit toward another pair of shoes). We have tested this feature out and they mean it!
Editor’s Note: Neil’s mom got shoes! She got Nikes instead of New Balance but all reports say she is pleased with her purchase. In other news, Neil has now gone down the podiatry rabbit hole and “plantar fasciitis” is in his vocabulary (as well as words like “pronation“). He may never be the same!
Why Everything About Everything Bagels is Awesome
In addition to his plea for help convincing his mom to take care of her feet, Neil posted this (titled “remains of everything bagel”):
Which brought out ALL the “everything bagel” lovers on Facebook (me included). In addition to the wonders of the everything bagel (they’re best eaten in one of the five boroughs, to be specific, but those of us not currently in NYC have to do the best we can), we discussed:
Since I wrote about Disney last Sunday, am still coming down from the high of spending a few days there last week, have lots of young friends doing the Disney College Program, and in general have many friends going to Disney right now (maybe spring break has something to do with it), there’s a lot of Disney on my Facebook feed and I’m okay with that!
How about you? How is Facebook edifying (or annoying) you lately?
I’m honestly not sure how you “do” Disney parks these days without a smartphone. With your device in hand and the help of the MyDisneyExperience app, you can plan and coordinate your entire visit, especially the Fast Pass process.
With a Fast Pass, you get expedited access to attractions, character meet and greets, and shows. After my recent visit, a few thoughts on how using the Fast Pass system intersects with six general life truths.
Planning Ahead Pays
If you want to avoid lengthy lines on the “big” Disney attractions, a Fast Pass is a necessity. When we went to Hollywood Studios, Tenley got fast passes for Tower of Terror, the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and the Frozen Sing-Along Celebration in advance. Although I didn’t do the two thrill rides, it helped expedite our trip that Tenley and her friend could do them with a minimum of waiting. And we all enjoyed being able to walk right into the Frozen Sing-a-long without standing around in a line moving at a glacial pace.
If You Fail to Plan Ahead, You Have to Watch Everyone Else Who Did Move Faster
Disney has definitely mastered the art of making long lines look deceptively manageable from the outside looking in. Get in line for something with a 110 minute wait time, thinking “ah … that doesn’t look that bad,” and find yourself enviously watching the Fast Pass holders stream on by, on their way to their fast-tracked experiences.
Standing in Line Isn’t ALWAYS Bad
Although this directly contradicts the above, life is full of contradictions, no? We chose to stand in long lines for several attractions we did not have Fast Passes for, and we had some of the best experiences of the trip during those waits. We spent time talking to a fun family from Oklahoma, discussing the challenges of siblinghood, the pros and cons of uniforms for school kids, and lots of other fun topics. Time flew.
We also played Heads Up! (mostly the Broadway version) and discovered a) how generational some Broadway knowledge is and b) how much fun you can have waiting in line (thanks, technology!).
Sometimes Planning Ahead Doesn’t Make THAT Much Difference
While Tenley and her friend were on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, I chose to do The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. The Fast Pass available to me was 35 minutes away, and the regular wait time was 40 minutes. BUT … I chose to get a Fast Pass so I could squeeze in a little errand I wanted to do. Technically, though, having a Fast Pass only saved me five minutes.
Overplanning Can Result in Missing Out on Serendipitous Happenings
The Fast Pass process can lure you into thinking only the Fast Pass activities are worthwhile. I think much of the Disney Magic is generated by being open to the unexpected, the small-but-magical, the discoveries you can’t force. We ended up doing pictures with Mickey Pretzels at Hollywood Studios (after I oh-so-brilliantly observed “oh, the pretzels are Mickey shaped! (SIGH….)). The lighting at that spot was perfect. Any other angle of the sun and it wouldn’t have worked. We were there at the right time, no Fast Pass required.
If only the magic could have taken care of my cowlick!
The Big Things Have Limits
Anyone remember paper tickets? How after a day at Disney your “E” tickets would be history while you would still have a fistful of the less valuable “A” tickets? The same principle still applies, just via an app. We still can’t (or shouldn’t) do ALL “big things” — discovering the hidden gems matters.
Belle and Lumiere were enchanting, even without Fast Passes.
NOTE: There is plenty of fine print with Fast Passes, like who gets the earliest selection window (60 days for people with reservations to stay on Disney Property), how many you can get at a time (three), and more. Read up ahead of time to get the most out of your Fast Passes (I linked to the official Fast Pass site above but Undercover Tourist has great tips here too)!
I was inspired to prepare this piece based on a post called “Confessions: Things I’ve Never Done” from Andrea of Living on Cloud Nine. We share so many “nevers” in common, for a portion of this post I kept her “nevers” and added my commentary. I’ll throw a few more original-to-me ones on at the end.
Seen an episode of The Bachelor (Andrea’s)
Unlike Andrea, I have seen several episodes of The Bachelor but I have never been a die-hard. I have to admit Twitter during The Bachelor is really fun though! (Jennifer Weiner’s Bachelor tweets were especially hilarious before she broke up with the show (thanks, Donald Trump.)
And fun side note: my daughter’s name (Tenley) had a brief popularity spike when there was a contestant on the show named Tenley (Tenley Molzahn — check her out at Tenley’s Sweet & Free Life).
Had stitches (Andrea’s)
Can’t say I’ve never had stitches (hello, childbirth).
Had a broken bone (Andrea’s)
I hate to jinx things by leaving this “never” here but, no.
Been in a Semi Truck (Andrea’s)
Funny/quirky that this was on Andrea’s list but …. I haven’t either!
Gone swimming under water (Andrea’s)
Yes, I’ve been swimming underwater.
Been on a Jet Ski or Water Skis (Andrea’s)
No to the jet ski, yes to the water skis. I have vivid memories of the friends who taught me to ski — I failed many times before finally staying up, and remember so clearly the key to success: staying “down” in a seated position longer than expected — until we were making progress — and then standing up. Not standing up prematurely before the boat had sufficiently pulled me into position. Kind of a great metaphor for life too.
Eaten Brussels Sprouts, Caviar, Eggs Benedict, Oysters, SpaghettiOs or a Big Mac (Andrea’s)
I need to cook Andrea some brussels sprouts (a fave!). I can check all of these off my list.
Joined Facebook or Instagram (Andrea’s)
(From Paula) I am never going to be able to escape Cal Newport (I wrote about his positive impact on my thoughts about attention span here and here, and my disagreement with his anti-social media stance here.) He impacted one of Andrea’s “never” answers (see below).
(Andrea’s original answer) I simply cannot do all Social Media and work and have a blog and raise a family. A couple outlets have to get sacrificed. Now while I admit I am probably missing out a little not having an insta, and you’re probably all gonna tell me that, lol, not having a FB is 110% fine by me. I read an article why one guy [Cal Newport] refused to join HERE and even had others try to argue why he should HERE and his stance remained the same.
Been inside a Costco (Andrea’s)
Me either! How is that?!
Been on a Cruise (Andrea’s)
Nor have I . Andrea says it’s not for her at all, but I would love to go on a cruise.
It wasn’t a BIG part of my children’s childhoods but yes, they’ve been. Tenley loved it so much she went to work there (for a few months as part of the Disney College Program). This picture is from our visit to her while she was in the program.
Gotten a Tattoo (Andrea’s)
I haven’t done this either, and in most respects it isn’t my thing. However, I do love the idea of a semicolon (to reflect suicide awareness as inspired by Project Semicolon). If you are here in Tallahassee, come to No Regrets Tattoos on 4/9/17 from 12-7 p.m., and either get a semicolon tattoo or draw one on yourself with Sharpie. No Regrets is donating 50% of the proceeds for all semicolon tattoos to NAMI Tallahassee, which provides support, advocacy, education, and research for people with mental illness, their families and friends.
Plucked My Eyebrows (Andrea’s)
Yes, I’ve done this, although I get them waxed now instead of plucking. If you read this post, you know the waxing process doesn’t always go smoothly!
Worn False Eyelashes (Andrea’s)
Nope. I haven’t either and don’t foresee a time when I will.
Now that I’ve worked through Andrea’s list, here are a few of my own:
Won a Grads Made Good Award
I have always admired the winners of the Omicron Delta Kappa Grads Made Good award at FSU, such as author Diane Roberts, retired astronaut Winston Scott, and Sister Michelle Carroll. It feels funny writing this because I could frame it as “I’m only 52 — that may be midlife but by golly I’m going to go out and write that book, create that world-changing social media campaign, or achieve that transcendent feat that earns me a nomination” but I just don’t see it happening (I probably also have dug my political grave in a few ways with the kind of people who make the Grads Made Good decisions, even if I solved World Hunger tomorrow.)
I remind myself that there are accomplishments in life for which there isn’t a cool batik award (I don’t know if they still do, but winners used to be given a hand painted batik likeness of themselves) and public notoriety, like raising two children and caregiving an elder through severe memory loss and terminal cancer. That matters too.
I particularly remember the 1996 Grads Made Good ceremony, when Wayne and I got a babysitter for a months-old Tenley and attended the breakfast. One of the honorees was Cliff Freeman, who created the Little Caesars “Pizza Pizza” campaign. Judging by this 2009 article about Mr. Freeman’s agency’s difficulty navigating a changed advertising landscape, success can be fleeting; perhaps I should be inspired to keep trying yet reassure myself that no award guarantees continued accolades.
Gone to Europe
I checked “international travel” off when I went to Guatemala in 2011 with Tenley. However, my dream international trip is to Valencia, Spain. That’s more likely to happen than winning a Grads Made Good Award.
Driven a Manual Transmission Car
While it isn’t technically true that I haven’t driven a manual transmission car, I surely have not mastered the skill. I did drive to Publix once, with Wayne talking me through it from the passenger seat, but I stalled out once and definitely could not have done it solo. This is a problem because the best car in the family right now is the one that has a manual transmission. I know once I master it I’ll wonder what all my anxiety was about but I’m not there yet.
Honorable Mentions: Are “honorable mentions” even a thing for a blog post like this? They are today, because explaining each one is a blog post in itself, which I don’t want to dig that deeply into right now, but they are tugging at me enough to deserve mention:
Never became a doctor
Never became fully Spanish/English bilingual (yet!)
Never binge-watched anything streaming (yet)
Never jumped out of an airplane (never will)
How about you? What’s on your “I never have” list?
Book clubs have changed. I know of some that don’t read a book at all (emphasis on wine). My book club DOES read, and takes reading seriously, but we would rather someone join us even if she hasn’t read the book yet. When Hearth and Soul hosted a book club centered on the book Hidden Figures recently, I attended even though I had “only” seen the movie. I appreciate their hospitality and learned so much from the event.
The organizers of the Hearth and Soul Hidden Figures gathering had invited Charmane Caldwell, Ph.D., to share her experiences as an African-American female engineer. She is an alumna of the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering (2011) and currently serves as the Diversity and Inclusion Director at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering.
Dr. Caldwell talks with attendees at the Hearth and Soul Hidden Figures event.
Dr. Caldwell’s takeaways enhanced our understanding of the book, but more than that, they incorporated messages that any young woman would be wise to consider.
The Difference Between “How” and “Why”
As Dr. Caldwell explained her evolution from college student, to engineer, to faculty member, she said she discovered an important truth along the way:
The person who knows how will always get a job but the person who knows why will always be their boss.
Ever since I read an account long ago of how pilots’ knowledge of the “old fashioned” engineering behind aviation, of having to KNOW and mentally calculate adjustments in order to fly planes rather than relying on automation, resulted in the fact that 185 out of 296 passengers survived the crash of United Flight 232 on July 19, 1989, I have felt strongly that the “why” is critical to know in addition to the “how.”
I encourage my kids (a high school senior and a college junior) to understand the “why’s.” Especially in an age of automation, where we barely have to lift a finger to get directions from point A to point B, to order a pizza, or to share a picture with a friend a world away, it’s important to understand what makes all that automation tick. It will make you more valuable as a potential employee and it must might save your (or someone else’s) life someday.
The Value of a Growth Mindset
A “growth mindset” is one of those things that most of us would probably say “yeah of COURSE it’s important to have a growth mindset.” But what does “growth mindset” really mean?
Individuals with a growth mindset learn and encourage others to do the same. While having a growth mindset is essential, we encounter many who are fixed in their thinking and ways of doing things.
Fixed mindsets are confident in what has been set, and no amount of effort or talent will change what is already known. Growth mindsets know continued practice and learning move us forward to better thinking, plans, and outcomes. Even with solid past results, constant learning and practice propels us forward.
For me, I’ve always aspired to be a lifelong learner, to “dig deeper” on almost any topic. Personally, the bigger challenge is “encouraging others to do the same” as Jon pointed out above.
In this post, Terence Brake of TMA World shares a growth mindset moment from Hidden Figures (movie version):
…Dorothy, who did the supervisor’s job in the “Colored Computer” room—without the appropriate title or pay—was fearful of the large IBM computer that had been installed. She was afraid of the computer’s impact on the jobs of her people. Instead of taking a hammer to the machine, she taught herself Fortran, and then taught it to the others in the pool. When the IBM mainframe took over from the human computers, she became official supervisor of the computer section, and took all of her people with her.
I could blame my reluctance to help others on feeling I don’t have enough time to train someone else, but honestly it’s more often a lack of confidence in my ability to teach them. I am reminded, though, of feedback I received from my staff at Healthy Kids. Almost everyone mentioned a process we had jointly developed (rather than me holed away in my office drafting something) as a favorite memory. They learned, they took ownership — it mattered to them to be asked and to be given an opportunity to grow.
In addition, a growth mindset is beneficial to all of us. Not just emotionally or learning-wise. As my Weaving Influence boss Becky Robinson wrote recently, “any time you can train someone else to become proficient at a task you typically do, you are creating margin for yourself in the future.”
Having a growth mindset helps us do more, for our intellect and for profitability. It’s a win-win.
Don’t Dumb Yourself Down
As book club wound down (well, that’s sort of a relative term — the “formal” book club wound down but many of us stayed long after the formal end to keep talking), I asked Dr. Caldwell to share the ONE thing she would tell today’s female students.
Her answer? DON’T DUMB YOURSELF DOWN.
So much truth to this, and I suspect we parents and supporters of young women *may* inadvertently facilitate this dumbing down without even knowing. How do you impress on a tween or teen girl that the real power is in embracing the subjects they love, even if they aren’t “cool” among their peers?
Sometimes there’s no fighting the pull of peer pressure, but we can support the young women in our lives and model how to have high aspirations, how to tackle subjects that appear difficult, how to confidently be the only girl (or minority, or both) in the room.
Here’s an interesting conundrum — when I started poking around the internet looking for great links about how girls should not “dumb themselves down,” almost everything I found was about how women shouldn’t “dumb themselves down” to get a man.
I think Dr. Caldwell meant something different, more fundamental, and more applicable to an 11-year old (although many of us adults would do well to remember the advice too). I think it was something more related to the advice Liz Ryan gave in Forbes to a job-searcher who wondered if she should dilute her educational background in order to be more appealing to employers who might be scared off by her higher education achievements:
Anybody who needs you to pretend to be less smart and capable than you are is not someone you can afford to work for.
As a practical matter, when you hide your flame in order to get hired, your mojo will leave you. Your mojo is the fuel source for your career and your life. You can’t afford to squander it!
“Mojo” is something that can be inadvertently snuffed out in a young girl’s psyche early in her life, and resurrecting it after she has stopped believing in herself is a Herculean task. Why not keep it alive and thriving from the beginning?
Read The Book, See The Movie
If you have been around my blog for long, you know I am a huge fan of NASA and, from a “women in tech” standpoint, consider hearing Former Deputy Administrator Dava Newman speak to be a pivotal personal moment. She made history by becoming Deputy Administrator of NASA. She made history partially thanks to women who took risks long before her, women whose lessons we in the general public are just now starting to appreciate ….. to learn “why” and not just “how,” to have a growth mindset, to not dumb themselves down.
Margot Lee Shetterly, author of Hidden Figures, said it well:
Editor’s Note: I asked Dr. Caldwell to elaborate a bit more on “how vs. why” and here is her response:
I’m glad people enjoyed the article. I made the comment about life in general, but specifically as engineers we go through the training (Physics, Calculus, etc.) to be able to determine the why of problems.
When I stopped running in early October because my rapid heart rate kept breaking through despite taking a beta blocker before exercising, I stopped other exercise activities too. The “reasons” mushroomed easily: once my son was able to drive himself, he was able to stay out after school finished, hanging out with his friends (or whatever). Going to an early morning class so that I could be home before my husband left for work involved an early wakeup that felt increasingly impossible to do. I was embarrassed about my weight gain.
Then the 12 Days of Fitness Challenge happened.
In December, BA Fitness posted on their Facebook page that there would be a “12 Days of Fitness” challenge. The challenge was set to begin the next day, so I had to make a quick decision regarding whether I was “in” or not. I decided! I was in! The basics: Do 12 classes within an abbreviated period of time (15 days). Don’t miss any classes you signed up for (or the clock would start over). In return? More fitness and a lovely custom workout towel (plus a chance to be entered in a drawing for free classes and other goodies.
Fast forward to the end. I *did* earn my towel (yay) and gathered a few insights along the way:
Why A Challenge Made a Difference
Having done many efforts such as Relay for Life and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, I have always been *amazed* at how hard people will work to earn a tshirt that may cost $5 to make. How many hundreds and thousands of dollars they’ll raise. That was me with the reward towel. Granted, it was exclusive to participants of the challenge who met the 12-class minimum, but in the end it was “just a towel.” But I wanted it! Like Joe, the swag was calling my name!
The Finite Time Line
Because the Challenge had a specific begin and end date, I had to fit my 12 classes in within a specified period of time. That short-circuited any “I’ll get to it eventually” thoughts in my head and made me overcome barriers I had been allowing to stop me from showing up.
Detailed, Transparent Updates
The challenge scoreboard was posted on Facebook at least once a day. Why did that matter? For starters, we could see each other’s progress? A perfect recipe for lots of support sharing (and a tiny quantity of good natured prods (as in, I’m getting up at 4:30 am to make the 5 am class — you can too, friend!)). Since the towels were limited to the first 25 people to complete the challenge, seeing a line of people ahead of us who were closer to hitting the 12-class mark than we were was motivation to step up our efforts and get our butts to class.
I had gotten out of touch with the fact that the best thing people and fitness lovers can do for one another is hold each other accountable. I stopped being on “active status” with my team (although my incredible coach still goes way above and beyond to track my workouts). I wasn’t racing so there was no “let’s get some runs in so we are prepared for the next 5K” type activity going on. When I knew my fellow challenge participants would be expecting me in class, and that my NOT going was stealing a spot from someone who needed it (it got pretty hard to find space in classes as the challenge proceeded), I showed up.
Planning Ahead is Your Friend
Like I mentioned above, as the challenge progressed, it got harder and harder to find space in class. I missed an opportunity to check off one (or two, if I had been willing to do a double) class of my list on a premium Saturday when I actually could go, because I waited too late to sign up. If you have a goal, plan ahead in order to execute it.
Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone Is Good
Because I had to take whatever classes were available, I took some classes I would not have traditionally picked. I got to exercise different muscles (literally), meet new people, and explore exercise alternatives I would not have tried before.
Excuses Hurt Only Ourselves
After I had to get carted back to the start area a mile into a walked 5K in October, something in my willpower deflated. Years of consistent exercise (some of those years with rockingly consistent nutrition (some not so much) felt like a waste of time. I know they weren’t a waste of time, but I was feeling sorry for myself. I was afraid to work out in the event my tachycardia acted up, afraid I would “cause a problem” for the staff or fellow students at the studio if I had an episode, just AFRAID.
Thanks to the challenge, though, for all the morning classes I did as part of a challenge, I drank only decaf before class, took my beta blocker, tried not to feel self conscious about bedhead or wearing colors that didn’t match, and DID IT. If I felt like something was pushing me too hard, I took a break. It was hard to stop worrying about what others thought (lazy/out of shape/unmotivated) but it was an important reminder that not everyone knows our stories.
THE HAPPY ENDING
Yes, I got the towel. More importantly, I got the push I needed to look those excuses, the extra pounds, the logistical challenges, and the health issues in the face and recommit to taking care of myself.
My bedhead and I earned my towel after my 12th class, an Indorow class. Pictured here with David Griffin, instructor.
In July 2014, when Tenley and I were in NYC, we were discussing how to get to Dylan’s Candy Bar, which is located at 3rd Avenue and 60th Street in NYC. Because we had to figure out where to get off of the bus, we had already discussed the cross street once while we were planning our day, within an hour of when we were discussing it again. I said “which cross street again?” She looked at me incredulously and said “sometimes I worry about you.” I said “I do too.”
Memory is a Muscle
As I wrote in a recent post for Weaving Influence, when I read the book Deep Work, I was reminded that the mind is like a muscle. There are things I can try to do to keep it in shape. (I mean …. I want to be able to find the candy stores in this world after all!). I signed up for a year’s worth of Lumosity and got started.
Lumosity is an online tool that helps people train their core cognitive abilities (great explanation of core cognitive abilities here).
The five core cognitive abilities Lumosity focuses on are speed, memory, attention, flexibility, and problem solving.
Speed – according to Cognifit, speed is “the time it takes a person to do a mental task” and is related to “the speed in which a person can understand and react to the information they receive.”
Attention – Cognifit defines attention as “the cognitive process that allows us to concentrate on a stimuli or activity in order to process it more thoroughly later.”
Flexibility – flexibility, an executive function, is “the capacity for quickly switching to the appropriate mental mode,” explains Cognifit.
Problem Solving – another executive function, problem solving is “defining the problem in the right way to then generate solutions and pick the right one” according to Cognifit.
Lessons from Lumosity
As I have played the Lumosity games in an attempt to improve my cognitive abilities, I have improved my LPI (Lumosity Performance Index) from 624 to 1141 (yay!). Along the way, I have made the following observations:
Some Games Are Much More Likable Than Others
My least favorite game is Tidal Treasures, which exercises working memory. As the game progresses, you have to choose an item on a “beach” that you have not chosen before. It is the game that takes the longest to play and is so very hard to conquer (but I am experimenting with mind tricks to be better, which I guess is the point of it being an “exercise.”).
Although Lumosity gives me the option to change games when Tidal Treasures comes up, I don’t. This goes in the category of “you have to take on the big challenges to improve.”
You can’t get a perfect score every time.
After each game you are shown whether or not your score that time fit in the top five of your scores in that game. It is so tempting to keep retrying if it happens to be a day you didn’t score in the top five.
It’s short sighted to not just get on with your life when you can’t get perfection every time.
Things Go Better If You Take a Split Second to Get an Overview
One of the games, Train of Thought, addresses divided attention, the ability to simultaneously respond to multiple tasks or task demands. As you increase your level of play, there are more trains going more places, and some trains look very similar to other trains (like the green train that has a BLACK top, compared to the all-green train). I’ve learned to take a split second before re-routing tracks to try to figure out where all the stations are — it makes a difference.
It doesn’t work to start playing a game right away if you don’t take a moment to figure out what field you are on.
Don’t Make Things Harder on Yourself
In the game Speedpack, which exercises visualization, the ability to manipulate or imagine the interaction of objects in your mind, the player has to “move” a camera to a certain compartment of a suitcase and try to put it in a compartment that won’t be full once the suitcase is closed. It reminds me of how much I hated those “what shape will this paper be when it is folded?” kinds of exercises we had when we took the ASVAB back in high school (is the ASVAB still a thing?). Sometimes, I can sit there trying to figure out which compartment to put the camera in when there is a whole row empty that involves no hard decisions.
When an easy option presents itself, take it!
Some Distractions Have Nothing To Do With The Route You Should Take
In Pinball Recall, a working memory game, the goal is to figure out where a ball is going to go based on its starting point and various bumpers in the way. Newsflash: some of those bumpers can’t change the direction of your ball no matter what. They are just there to make things look more complicated than they are!
Don’t assume every barrier is actually going to get in your way.
Don’t Paralyze Yourself By Lack of Confidence
Every single boss I have ever had (that took the time and effort to evaluate me) has said “if only you were more confident in your decisions.” SIGHHHH. So true but trust me never has that been said to me that I then walked out of that office and proceeded to automatically exude more confidence. Lack of confidence is a pretty deeply ingrained challenge. Lumosity to the rescue! At least for the ten minutes I am playing every morning. Success at some games, especially the ones which work on speed, depend on quick reflexes. I can either just make the confidence choice or get a lower score because I questioned myself.
Confidence often pays off.
Everything in Your Field of Vision DOES Matter Sometimes
The Eagle Eye game tests “field of view” – the “area over which you can absorb visual information without moving your eyes.” (Quotes from Lumosity.) There is a piece of information in the center of the screen (like a number) and a “bird” elsewhere on the screen. The player has to remember the center item while recalling where the bird was.
This game always feels like life itself – you have to remember what is at the center and often be able to take care of important items “on the side.”
We Are Not Always The Best Judges of Our Strengths
I hate to admit this (and please don’t tell any future editing or otherwise communications-based clients) but “Word Bubbles Rising” is not (give me just a moment here ….) the game at which I score the best. It is a flexibility game and I score best at problem solving games. Hmmm.
In the same way that a 360 degree evaluation in the workplace gives you insight you don’t expect, opening yourself up to an evaluation of your brain capacity strengths and weaknesses can surprise you.
I’ve been worried ever since I read Still Alice about early brain deterioration. Living with an in-law with short-term memory disorder leads me to be terrified, daily, of what the future might hold. Playing Lumosity may not be the key to staying supple in the brain forever, but hopefully it’s a step in the right direction.
Just like exercise may keep our physical bodies stronger, our brains deserve a chance too.
It’s no secret at all that my candidate did not win the US Presidency. The election of Donald Trump to the US Presidency makes me sad, angry, and terrified for the impact his policy choices will have on my fellow Americans, on me, and on the world at large.
But he did win, he is being inaugurated on January 20, and I have a choice to make regarding how I respond.
Although One20 is focusing on January 20 to begin with, I anticipate that start will create ripple effects long into the future. One20 has inspired the structure of this post: 20 things I, as ONE single person, can do and say in response to the establishment of the Trump Administration.
1. I am not using the #NotMyPresident hashtag.
The day after the election, my daughter and I were discussing the election’s outcome and the reactions of people around us. “Is it that bad?” was her question. While I do believe it is, indeed, that bad, I am choosing not to use the #NotMyPresident hashtag.
I am choosing not to use the #NotMyPresident hashtag because, like it or not, he is what I am getting. However, in the same way that I went to the Grads Made Good breakfast at Florida State year after year and refused to clap for Dr. Stephen Winters (RIP) who groped me in Dodd Hall when I was a freshman, the professor a higher-up administrator basically looked the other way about when I shared the information, I will not be applauding our new President.
2. An Addition to My White House Selfies
Every time I go to DC, I take the obligatory “here I am in front of the White House picture,” like this one from last September.
When I go to the Shot at Life Champions Summit next month, though, the picture may still have a green pen in it (I mean, that’s the norm now, right?) BUT I will also feature a safety pin prominently in the picture. I have seen so many individuals and groups deeply hurt by the reinvigorated spirit of hatred and divisiveness in our country, it is imperative to me that people know I, like @IBexWeBex, am a safe place.
3. I will participate in the Tallahassee Women’s March on January 21.
Organized by the Florida Planned Parenthood Alliance, the event is “a 100% inclusive event and all genders, races, ages, religions, sexual orientations – everyone! – is invited to participate.”
4. Involvement in local, state, and federal politics.
I will redouble my efforts to be personally familiar with the choices my local, state, and federal leaders are making, and to make my positions clear with them.
5. My Profile Picture on January 20
I am not changing my profile picture to one of President Obama on January 20, as many people I know are planning. This relates to the fact that I am not using the #notmypresident hashtag. I am beyond grateful to President Obama and his family. He has been a singularly outstanding President, and I am so excited about how he can apply his intellect and passions once he no longer has the constraints of the Presidency.
6. Helping Homeless Women With Personal Hygiene Needs
In keeping with the idea that we can collectively make big impacts when many people do small things, I am adding feminine products to the non perishables I purchase for local food drives. For more on this topic, visit Bustle.
7. Making an Impact in Person, not just Online
I read a great post on Facebook about how we should attend to seeing how we can positively impact the people within five feet of us. I can’t find the initial post, but the concept is true. It is so easy to get wrapped up in our virtual communities that we forget what we can do for the people right next to us. Let’s do it.
9. I am refusing to stay silent in the face of racist, anti-semitic, or other hate jokes.
When a national rental car company picked me up to take me to pick up a car right after the election, the driver, commenting on how safe my neighborhood appeared, went on to remark, “be glad you’re not in California where those Muslims are lying down in the streets.” When I responded that they had something to say, he went on to explain how we can never get along with “them,” and how I would “figure that out someday.”
I doubt my attempt to defend Muslims registered with him AT ALL, but maybe, just maybe, he will think in the future before spouting his hatred. It mattered to try.
10. I am not moving to Costa Rica, Canada, or anywhere off of US soil.*
I am not going to let this President and his administration run me off. I love my country, think it is great already, and plan to stay put.
11. Voting Matters Now More Than Ever*
I will support efforts to get out the vote, to encourage people to register to vote, and to make it easy for my fellow citizens to vote.
12. Supporting Equity and Safety for Black Students
I am grateful to have met Kelly Wickham-Hurst, creator of Being Black at School. I have made a donation and will continue to support her work advocating for equity and safety for Black students.*
13. Kindness > Sarcasm
Inspired by Caitie Whelan’s Lightning Notes about The Kindness Impulse, I will strengthen my kindness impulse so it is stronger than my sarcasm impulse. For the record, it would probably be easier to move to Canada!
14. You’re Never Too Young to Learn to Make a Difference
I will believe in the capacity for our the youngest among us to embrace diversity, to make an impact, and to positively influence their peers. A great place to start is by sharing one of the books featured in this #MomsReading blog from Moms Rising.
15. None of Us Can Afford to Be Single Issue Voters
I will continue to educate myself about issues that affect my fellow women and Americans, even if they don’t directly affect me. It started with We Won’t Wait 2016 and will only grow in the face of closed-mindedness and hatred from our newly elected leaders.
16. I will support the LGBTQIA+ Community
I joined Equality Florida in order to stay informed about issues important to Florida’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community (as well as Floridians at large) including Discrimination, Adoption, Family Recognition, Safe and Healthy Schools, Hate Crimes, Voter Mobilization, Marriage, Transaction, and Gun Violence Prevention.
17. I Will Advocate Tirelessly for Banned Books
I will continue to advocate passionately against censorship and other types of limitations to the freedom to read. Learn more about Banned Books Week.
18. Climate Change Is Bigger To Me Now
Although it has not been one of my “top” issues, I will redouble my efforts to track climate change issues and make a personal impact (ten good ideas in this article).
19. The World Beyond Our National Borders Deserves My Support
I will continue to be involved in international issues and in the lives of individuals in other countries for whom my access to freedom, resources, and security can be a help, such as the three children we sponsor in Guatemala and El Salvador through Unbound.
20. I Will Respect The Lessons of History
At the wise recommendation of Steve Schale, I read Rep. John Lewis’s letter of forgiveness to Governor George Wallace today. In one passage, he said, “Much of the bloodshed in Alabama occurred on Governor Wallace’s watch. Although he never pulled a trigger or threw a bomb, he created the climate of fear and intimidation in which those acts were deemed acceptable.” In the letter, Rep. Lewis forgave Governor Wallace, who in his view “grew to see that we as human beings are joined by a common bond.”
President Elect Trump will probably never pull a trigger or throw a bomb himself, but until he is proven otherwise, I stand ready to be one of the many Americans doing my part to mitigate the climate of fear and intimidation I see infiltrating the 2017 version of America which should know so much better by now.
We tell people who we are with every breath we breathe. (Source Unknown)
Mary’s unknown source is so right.
I can’t change who is going to be sworn in on January 20, but I can be a part of keeping America great …. for all Americans … until I run out of breath.
*Items with asterisks were inspired by “my commitments to protecting our democracy,” a reflection on President Obama’s farewell address by Leah Jones. Thank you, Leah, for helping me fill out my list of 20 actions/observations in such a substantive way.
More Ideas For How To Continue Advocacy Beyond 1/20/17
There are not that many things I am superstitious about. The superstitions I do hold, however, maintain a powerful grip on me, and although my outward observance of them may be shrouded in me saying “what could it hurt to [insert fulfillment of superstition here]”? but my inner self is screaming “please please let this one be more than a superstition!”.
The traditional southern New Year’s Day meal, for example. Today I will travel to my hometown to share the traditional New Year’s foods. When I haven’t been able to go to Lake Butler, I’ve always visited a local restaurant for the necessary “good luck foods.”
A Traditional Southern Good Luck Meal
Although I’ve read that the tradition is pork, black eyed peas, and greens, the pork part has always been sort of an optional part of the good luck triad for me.
The more pork and ham in your meal, the more luck you will have. Because of the amount of fat in pork, it is a symbol of wealth and prosperity. Some people also say that because a pig uses its snout to dig in the ground while moving forward, eating pork on New Year’s signifies progress and moving forward. So don’t just use ham hock and fatback to flavor your veggies; eat a baked ham or pork chops as a main dish.
My parents have always insisted on seasoning the New Year’s greens with pork (hog jowl to be specific) but having pork as the meat has never felt that critical to me.
Moving forward, though, sounds like an intention I can definitely embrace, so my snout is now engaged with this idea!
I did not appreciate greens (turnips, collards, etc.) as a kid. I really started to like them during my teenage eating disorder phase, when anything with minimal calories was attractive because it was something I could put in my mouth (this was also my tab and carrots phase …).
Once I started liking greens, I really liked greens. That affinity has lasted long beyond the point at which I was looking for zero calorie foods.
I think one component of my love for greens is understanding how much work they involve. It takes a LOT of greens to turn into a yummy bowl of greens deliciousness. They have to be picked, washed, prepped. It’s a process. I’ve seen my mom do it countless times — I’ve heard her excitement when she mentioned how a relative unexpectedly left a bag of greens at the front door. Greens are affection in the south, and a delicious affection it is (especially if you add hot sauce — the kind where peppers have soaked in vinegar). YUM.
Anyway, what greens are supposed to represent is prosperity (green, like money…). The truest prosperity representative is apparently cabbage, but all the southerners I know do collards. This piece describes the cabbage/collards evolution in detail.
I’ve been alive 52 years and can’t say I’ve ever had a positive financial development and said this must be because I ate greens on January 1 but I’m all for giving fate any assist it needs in bringing more monetary green into my life!
Black-eyed peas are a must for New Year’s Day as well. As this article explains, black-eyed peas represent coins whereas greens represent paper money.
Black-eyed peas also take me back to so many hours spent on the porch of my maternal grandparents, shelling peas. Back then, I didn’t see the point, but a lot more was exposed than delicious peas as we sat around freeing the peas from their hulls. It was a time for telling stories, intergenerationally. Shelling the peas also gave us an appreciation for the work that goes into the food we eat.
The more I read articles about traditional southern New Year’s food, the more I knew I needed to include cornbread. However, cornbread doesn’t touch a sentimental or superstitious cord for me.
Apparently, cornbread represents gold.
Therefore, why have I been ignoring you, cornbread? Welcome to my New Year’s Day plate!
Financial Prosperity is Great, But Emotional and Health Prosperity is Even Better
I would love for the pork, the greens, the collards, and the cornbread to transform themselves into more income and less debt for 2017. We are facing big decisions as my 403B dwindles, another child graduates from high school, and my father in law’s health declines.
But honestly, I crave continued abundance in the quality of friendships I am lucky to have. I would love to see the people I care about be free of cancer, chronic health issues, and mental health challenges that no amount of money will fix. I want to be rich in courage: the courage to more confidently state what I need, in my marriage, in my professional life, to my own deepest self.
I suppose the start of all of that begins when I pick up my fork at lunch tomorrow … and dig into that pork, those greens, the black-eyed peas, and the cornbread.