Happy 15th Birthday, LinkedIn!

LinkedIn is turning 15. (The birthday is the subject of this blog, along with some interesting infographics about how the world has changed over the 15 years)

As part of their birthday celebration, LinkedIn is encouraging people to share their career aspirations when they were 15 years old.

LinkedIn

#WhenIWas15

I am actually taking this post in a different direction (surprise!) but I am nothing if not a rule follower, so to answer the question about career aspirations when I was 15, here goes:

I don’t recall specifically what my big career dreams were at 15. I was still heavily involved in music (band), but didn’t plan to major in music. I was probably already leaning toward psychology/mental health, but still had strong political aspirations and a business orientation. Given that the summer I graduated from high school (at 17), I spent the summer knocking on doors trying to save souls, I’m pretty sure I also was still considering being a missionary. Whatever I planned to do, I am sure travel was a must. It always has been.

And most of our pictures are packed away due to our house being for sale, so my “Me at 14” picture will have to do for the pic LinkedIn wants.

LinkedIn

Enough About Me, Let’s Talk About You, Birthday Site

It occurred to me it would be much more fun/interesting to talk about LinkedIn, which has changed so much over the 15 years. Here are 15 somewhat randomly organized observations about the good, the bad, and the mystifying.

1 – LinkedIn is an important part of the social media landscape

When Sree Sreenivasan presented How to Use Social Media in Your Career through the New York Times, he listed LinkedIn first among five social media options, noting it has 500 million members, calling it the “quintessential professional network.”

I tend to think LinkedIn is here to stay, having made it 15 years.

2-  LinkedIn is a useful and varied place to find content

One of my tasks at my freelance position is searching for timely posts about legal practice management issues that also meet specific editorial guidelines. When all my usual go-to options fail, LinkedIn is sometimes helpful.

If you’re not in a position of having to be picky about editorial criteria, I think you could find something about almost anything remotely business-related on LinkedIn.

I tried to think of something relatively obscure to search for on LinkedIn and came up with vinegar. That led me (through a content search) to:

LinkedIn

3 – Having to explain LinkedIn to someone else helped me understand it better

A few years ago, I had an opportunity to be an assistant in a LinkedIn workshop for sales professionals. Isn’t it always the case that you learn more about something by having to explain it to someone else? The experience gave me more confidence with LinkedIn as I helped participants figure out how to set up their accounts and how to get the most out of them. (Big thanks to Becky Robinson for her role in giving me this chance.)

4 – Posting on LinkedIn for a client is a great way to learn more about how to navigate LI

Two of the freelance positions I have held in the past four years have involved posting to LinkedIn on behalf of clients. Doing this has been another way to expand my LinkedIn abilities and give me a different perspective. Holding someone else’s professional image in your hands (at your keyboard?) or that of an organization is a big responsibility.

5 – When LinkedIn introduced live video as an option, that was an asset

I don’t agree with all the changes LinkedIn has made over the years, but this is one I liked. “If a video is available, 60% of visitors will opt to watch it before reading any text,” according to Replay Science. Presenting material through video is more likely to get someone’s attention (that’s what you want, right?). Also, the process of delivering material through video helps you practice your presentation and videography skills, something we all need anyway.

6 – Hashtags, on the other hand…

Call me old school, call me hesitant to change, call me whatever. I’m not a fan of hashtags on LinkedIn. I recently argued, during a conference call with a freelance team I was on, that they shouldn’t be used. Au contraire, they argued. Use them or don’t do our social. Well okay.

The thing is, the organization wanting the hashtags was right, as this post attests. Read more about Hashtags on LinkedIn here.

One reason I don’t like hashtags on LinkedIn is that, when I was posting for a client on Buffer or Hootsuite, I had to do their posting separately because a hashtag would give away the fact that I was bulk posting across several sites at once. It was a check and balance that made me try to add something unique to their LinkedIn posting. I guess I should just be happy for the streamlined workload. Maybe I just like doing things the hard way and am a glutton for punishment. I prefer thinking I care about my clients’ content being the best, most attractive, most compelling it can be.

7 – And GIFS, on the “other” other hand

I just learned that LinkedIn now accepts GIFS within its messages component.

Why, LI, why?

via GIPHY

8 – Writing articles on LinkedIn (along with other activities) can still be awkward and cumbersome

The LinkedIn user interface has improved over the years (hopefully we all get better with age), but it can still feel clunky, non-intuitive and confusing to me. Back in 2015, co-founder Reid Hoffman was quoted in The Next Web as saying:

I think some people find it very confusing. That’s absolutely the case and there’s definitely more work we can do.

Keep working on it, LinkedIn. Please.

9 – Keywords are of paramount importance

Keywords matter now more than ever on LinkedIn (and this, of course, is not unique to LinkedIn). This is one I am better at parroting than implementing, apparently, but I am learning. Former LinkedIn staff member Jeremy Schifeling of Break Into Tech says keywords are critical to making you “findable” when he lists the only four things that matter on LinkedIn.

10 –  I don’t know how long I’ve been on LinkedIn

I would have referenced how long I’ve been on LinkedIn if I could figure out how to do that. See also #7, about the difficult interface. Twitter has its faults, but one of them isn’t the ease of figuring out how long I’ve been there. (The discovery below took me one click.)LinkedIn

11 – Networking metrics are difficult to follow

This is another category that I have trouble figuring out sometimes. There’s a difference between connections and followers. I had to gather number of connections for a former freelance client, and every single month I had to dig through her profile in a byzantine manner to figure it out (it’s harder when someone has more than 500 connections). I got it right for her every month, but it was so frustrating to not have an easy way.

12 – Having a premium account gives you more benefits, but can be expensive

I have not yet personally seen the benefit of paying for a LinkedIn premium account, but it does give users more benefits. One of my clients had premium and I did have a bit of an “ooh-aah this is cool” reaction every time I used it. Here’s one breakdown to help you decide and here’s another.

13 – LinkedIn can be important to personal branding

[Note: I got this one from 5 LinkedIn tips to strengthen your personal brand (and I agree with its premise).]

Any senior leader who is interviewing, partnering, mentoring, and attending or speaking at conferences needs to create the right online impression to match their personal brand and values. – Sandra Long, author of LinkedIn for Personal Branding: The Ultimate Guide.

14 – I struggle to figure out how much to segregate the personal from the professional

In my mind, LinkedIn is for professional content mainly.

However, I don’t comply with my own beliefs.

I do think the site has become more blurry about personal vs. professional. When I was looking for vinegar-related content (see #2 above), there were several recipes and gorgeous food photographs to scroll past before I found a business article about vinegar. For a moment, I thought I may have inadvertently ended up on Instagram.

I still try to skew content to the professional side even if it is mostly personal. For instance, when I wrote about caregiving, I usually prefaced a link on LinkedIn with “your employees may be experiencing caregiving stress” or something similar.

Ultimately, though, I’m not that much of a “compartmentalization” sort of person (rightly or wrongly). What you see (or read) is what you get, and I bring my whole self to work, in general. In addition, since writing is part of my professional profile, pretty much everything I post is a potential work sample.

15 – LinkedIn is useful for job-hunting

LinkedIn is an effective tool for job hunting. Despite its good and bad points, it is a place to share your expertise, network and pursue opportunities.

Happy Birthday, LinkedIn

In the LinkedIn Turns 15 post, Allen Blue says the platform’s initial tagline was “relationships matter.” Although some of the interface issues make it a bit difficult to pursue those relationships sometimes, the platform does make a difference for those of us who commit time and energy to it.

Keep on making a difference, LinkedIn. And Happy Birthday.

Note: I am linking this post to a Kat Bouska prompt, “write a post inspired by the word time.”

LinkedIn

 

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Why I’m Not Laughing at the Tide Pod Challenge

These cookies look tasty enough to eat:

Tide Pod Challenge

Source: Pinner Punny Garrden

And I have it on good authority that these shots are delectable:

Tide Pod Challenge

Photo credit: Tipsybartender.com

But……….

About The Tide Pod Challenge

I suspect my opinion on this may put me in a minority, as I am taking a fuddy-duddy, somewhat humorless approach. I’ll have to take being in the minority.

If You’ve Been Under a Rock

The Tide Pod challenge is one of the most recent in a string of “kid dare” challenges that have gained additional momentum thanks to social media and the internet. Participants in the challenge put laundry pods into their mouths (usually Tide brand) and film and/or stream themselves doing so. (Facebook and YouTube have begun removing any depiction of someone doing the challenge.) This history is also informative.

Why the Tide Pod Challenge Has Taken Off

Who’s to say what makes one stupid prank go viral while others falter? If I knew what makes things go viral, my blog numbers would be much better. I suppose it boils down, to an extent, to the fact that preteens and teens do unpredictable things for reasons adults often can’t discern. Attention, of course. “Because I can” probably ranks up there.

The Tide Pod challenge is not the first “kid dare” phenomenon of the Social Media age. Innocuous-sounding (but potentially deadly) “kid dares” have probably existed as long as there have been kids.

Cases in point of other kid (and adult) dares:

Chubby Bunny, which involves stuffing your mouth with marshmallows while uttering the phrase “chubby bunny.” Admittedly, I have had the Oprah story about a child’s death that was linked to playing Chubby Bunny in my head for years — this Snopes post provides details that I had not previously realized (like the fact that the progression of the events leading to the child’s death were different from what I had always thought). An adult is also documented as having a Chubby Bunny-related death, which is a reminder that it’s not just teens and preteens making regrettable choices.

The Cinnamon Challenge, which entails consuming a spoonful of cinnamon within 60 seconds without drinking anything (while filming/streaming). The Cinnamon Challenge is not without its dangers.

The Kylie Lip Challenge, one I just learned about today. Participants place their lips into a shot glass and create a vacuum, to achieve their intention of making their lips look plumper. Besides the dangers from shattered shot glasses that succumb to the pressure, apparently some challenge participants have become permanently disfigured (more in this Washington Post article or if you can’t get past the Post’s paywall, this PopSugar piece.).

Why the Collective Humor About the Tide Pod Challenge Irritates Me

The Tide Pod challenge has become the joke du jour on social media.

My beloved alma mater joked that they have made it an admissions criteria (or maybe they really did — I can’t tell if this is serious or not):

Tide Pod Challenge

And, predictably, the Darwin references have abounded. Here’s a favorite (and one of the kinder Tweets):

Tide Pod Challenge

Although I hate to give her clicks or more exposure for it, Tomi Lahren says participation in the Tide Pod challenge is an outgrowth of liberal parenting:

The left, which dictates popular culture, brainwashes young people into believing they live in a world where 64 gender options are up for selection, everything is free, Beyonce is a god-queen and eating detergent is funny. ~ Tomi Lahren

Maybe so, Tomi, but this parent who identifies as liberal has focused more on teaching acceptance, critical thinking and compassion, all of which were sorely lacking in your recent tweets about what our President reportedly termed “S-hole countries.” I’ll take the compassion, thank you very much.

The Biggest Irritant

Before the Tide Pod challenge became a viral social media phenomenon, laundry pods were proving dangerous. By November 2012, the year they were introduced, 500 children’s injuries had been documented related to chewing on or playing with the pods and they were declared harmful by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

I had been aware of the safety issues with pods since pretty much the beginning, since I am on social media so much and in so many parent-blogger communities. I wasn’t surprised – kids get into things they shouldn’t and end up being hurt.

Here’s what turned me around and changed my gut feeling about Tide Pod Challenge humor:

“Of the eight deaths directly related to laundry pods in the last five years, two were children — but six were seniors with dementia.” (Source: Consumerist)

Coming out of a three-year stint during which my father-in-law, who had short-term memory loss, lived with us, this hit me intensely. Although Dad never tried to eat a Tide pod (that I know of), I would find odd things at unusual places around the house — partially consumed candy bars he had tried to eat in the middle of the night (not that I minded him eating candy bars, of course — but his dental health had deteriorated (and he had a TUMOR blocking his esophagus), which made eating something like a Baby Ruth bar impossible, so I would find melted/degraded/partially digested bars in his bedroom that he had been too embarrassed (or something) to dispose of correctly).

The man tried to “smoke” a Slim Jim once, thinking it was a cigar.

Elderly people with dementia do odd things.

There but for the grace of God go I.

It also kind of bugs me that people are implying that participating in the Tide Pod challenge is all due to parental negligence. Most of us parents are doing our best. Heck, I accidentally allowed my treasured, wanted-more-than-anything seven-week old to roll off a twin bed onto a hardwood floor once when we were visiting relatives and I was nursing (sorry, Tenley). Mistakes happen, parents fail, kids survive (thank goodness).

(I also think some kids who made the poor choice of doing the Tide Pod challenge probably should be admitted, Florida State.)

As Rob Gronkowski notes, it’s best to keep the Tide pods out of the mouth and in the washing machine:

A Challenge to the Rest of Us

Yes, ingesting a chemical-filled, poisonous detergent packet is stupid (very).

Yes, doing so makes Darwin look prescient.

But laughing at it to the degree that is taking place currently diminishes us all, in my opinion, and introduces a poisonous element of a different kind.

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Grateful Challenge 2017

Grateful Challenge

There are 37 days left in 2017 (how is that?) and it’s time for the annual grateful challenge. (Gini Dietrich says so here.)

I did the Grateful Challenge the standard way (list everything you’re grateful for in 10 minutes, with a goal of getting to 99) twice. I reached 33 in 2014, and 99 in 2015 (yay!) then changed things up a bit in 2016.

I’m going to change things up a bit this year too. I like the 10-minute limit. I have been toying with the idea of writing a book about caregiving. I blew off NaNoWriMo though, and am at a bit of a loss regarding what to write (and frankly struggling with the courage to write anything).

Therefore, a (roughly) ten-minute list of what I am grateful for regarding the lessons learned from caregiving:

To set the scene, I am listening to the soundtrack from Sleepless in Seattle while writing this. It’s one of the things Dad wanted played at his visitation/funeral, according to his Five Wishes document. This always struck me as odd, but he did love movies and classic music, so it makes sense in retrospect. (We also only managed one of his wish list items (Claire de Lune (sp?)) at his funeral, so I guess I am making up for an item that didn’t get checked off his list.

That’s the thing about caregiving. The person at the center of it all is the subject of everyone else’s checklists and (at least in Dad’s case) has very little control over what happens to them.

To start the gratitude list then, I have to acknowledge the fact that it is an honor to be entrusted with a loved one’s wellbeing (and I’m not saying “honor” in the cliché way —- it’s as vital a responsibility as parenthood, being a spouse, or giving your all as an employee).

I, to be honest, am grateful for the opportunity to be at home for three years. I was mentally exhausted from my efforts to make peace with the degree to which I had become unmotivated at work and physically exhausted from my crazy sleep patterns as I tried to squeeze in freelance work. I may have said to many people “I have to be a caregiver,” and I did (barring some financial solution that would have enabled him to go to a facility coupled with our willingness to let him go to one), but I healed over the three difficult years in some ways. If nothing else, three years free of Monday Dread were worth all the hard work of caregiving.

I am grateful to know myself better (not that it’s all good). I have the academic training to be empathetic, organized, and deliberate in my approach to caring for someone (due to my degree in Child Development and Family Relations (okay, ONE class in elder issues but still …..) and my master’s in Counseling and Human Systems). About 95% of that went out the window, though, when it came to dealing with Dad (just like 95% of my child development knowledge went out the window dealing with my own kids).

It was really toward the end that I got better at setting limits and boundaries and not reacting to being baited (and I know he wasn’t baiting me on purpose — it was a dementia thing). I am also a pleaser by nature and it was so very frustrating that “pleasing” is really a bad approach to someone who is combative and irrational.

I am grateful to have learned that there are often more solutions than you think there are. I am grateful to have become more decisive. We went round and round hemming and hawing about whether to move Dad to Depends ….. until the night he stood in our hallway peeing on the carpet (again, not intentionally but it was what it was). I immediately made the decision we had been putting off.

Ditto the decision to switch him to non alcoholic beer. I guess maybe that wasn’t my decision but the whole situation pointed out how we had options we could have pursued earlier. It wasn’t until he had his emergency dental procedure and couldn’t have beer for 48 hours that we said “we’re going with non alcoholic beer for good now.” The funny thing is I had been knocking myself out to sneak N/A beer into his “real” beer when he wasn’t looking. I would wait until he went to the bathroom then do this weird sprint/scurry thing where I ran to the fridge, poured out part of the real beer, and replaced it with N/A. I was grateful to end my N/A scurry cycle, let’s put it that way.

I am grateful for the realization that humor and the end of life stage are not mutually exclusive, that sarcasm (private, venting to people who get it sarcasm) is not a sign that the patient is not loved (quite the opposite).

I am grateful that I was forced to be assertive over so many things — medical practitioners who didn’t take care of his needs (not that there weren’t some who were AMAZING) and home care people who lied to me (again, some were INCREDIBLE).

Most of all, I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to *try* to live up to the care my awesome mother-in-law would have expected me to give (the woman had high high standards!). I am grateful to have seen this stage of someone’s life. I think it will help me be more empathetic to others in the same situation in the future (and maybe do some advocacy).

Grateful Challenge

On the left, the official funeral mass. On the right, his friend Dan sharing memories at Corner Pocket. Another day ending at his favorite place. 🙂

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Until Alzheimers is Cured, Let’s Do This

When we prepared Wayne’s dad’s obituary, we designated Big Bend Hospice for donations. BBH definitely deserved this prominent place, and has earned any and all donations people choose to give.

However, another cause that merits attention is Alzheimers Disease. Although Dad didn’t technically have Alzheimers, his short-term memory and cognition were sufficiently impaired that he qualified for the services of our local (and awesome!) Alzheimers Project here in Tallahassee.

Our Experience

Because Dad had experienced several mini-strokes in 2012, his short-term memory was affected. (Note: This dry sentence doesn’t really begin to address what that meant in reality, as it played out in our day-to-day lives.)

This is a bit of a layperson explanation, but he had difficulty remembering events or details that had just transpired, while it was often easier to recall long-term memories. He would ask, for example, if something we were watching (that was obviously (to us anyway) a film) was occurring live. He asked my husband Wayne if he was married (sigh….).

Things changed about the way he processed the world. He didn’t care about personal hygiene. His laugh wasn’t a humorous laugh — it was a haunting expression that always unnerved me — and I could never just put it in some category of “that’s because of his condition.” I am sorry to say that almost to the very end I was sniping back “that’s not funny” and slamming doors (often over the all-too-frequent cat escapes that he facilitated).

Most importantly (and this is a mixed bag), his memory deficits prevented him (I think) from really comprehending how sick he was. Melanie, our incredible social worker, said “that’s probably a blessing” and she was right, to a degree, but I always felt it must be scary as he** for him to see all of us buzzing around, acquiring equipment, administering medication, transforming his room with a hospital bed, for reasons he couldn’t figure out.

Alzheimer’s and dementia are different for everyone, but the challenges are numerous and share common threads, both for the patient who doesn’t fully comprehend the path their life has taken and for the caregiver trying to be compassionate without losing their own mind.

The Alzheimers Project has many services (free), including support groups, respite services, counseling and more. I tell everyone to go to support groups (although (cough cough) I never made it to one. But we did get so much benefit out of the respite care, where an Americorps volunteer comes to the home to care for the patient for a few hours each week. Thanks to respite care, I was able to work, nap, and run errands (and Dad was able to interact with someone new). They were godsends. Here is Alex, who was with us almost until he passed away.

Alzheimers Advocacy

(Note, to read more about the role of Fordham Afghan pictured here in our lives, please click this link.)

Ways To Support Alzheimers Efforts

Like I said in the beginning of this post, it is important to me that the world know how much benefit we received from our local Alzheimer’s Project, and how much we want other families with Alzheimers (and similar issues) to receive support, along with our hope that research will eliminate this terrible disease. If you are a family dealing with Alzheimers, call their hotline 24/7 at 1.800.272.3900 or visit their website by clicking here

If you aren’t currently personally dealing with Alzheimers, but still want to help

Buy a Rivet Revolution Product

Rivet Revolution sells beautiful handcrafted jewelry and donates $10 from each purchase to three Alzheimers-related causes: Part the Cloud, Hilarity for Charity, and The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement. Here is mine; isn’t it beautiful?

Alzheimers Advocacy

Rivet Revolution notes these facts among the reasons why they feel so strongly about ending Alzheimers (besides the fact that each of the three founders has a personal connection to the disease).

  • One in 10 people age 65 and older (10 percent) has Alzheimer’s dementia
  • Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women
  • Alzheimer’s Disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States
  • Every 66 seconds someone in the United States develops the disease
  • More than 44 million people worldwide suffer from Alzheimer’s

Do Charity Miles for the Alzheimers Association

Did you know you can walk, run or bike and help the Alzheimers Association earn funding just by using the Charity Miles app?

Here’s a memory from some Charity Miles I did last year (which seems like a lifetime ago for many reasons).

Alzheimers Advocacy

If You’re in Tallahassee, PARTY!

Seriously, if you’ve never been to Parrothead Phrenzy (it’s coming up on August 26!) or Purple Craze (This year’s has already happened but I imagine there will be a 2018 event), you’re missing out! These events help the Alzheimers Project and show you a great time while you’re at it!

Donate

There’s always the option of straightforward donations! To donate to the Tallahassee Alzheimers Project, click here (a donation as small as $2.50 can provide a replacement band for a Project Lifesaver bracelet). On a more national level, you can donate to the Alzheimers Association here.

Think About Your Words

Although I have my definite (and many, and very strongly held) opinions about our current president, it unnerves me to hear people diagnosing him on the basis of his tweets and behaviors. To me, it dilutes the specificity with which we need to address Alzheimers and related dementia conditions. Let’s be deliberate with the words we use; actual patients are paying a price every day for something that didn’t get diagnosed by strangers second-guessing.

Lastly, a word from Maria Shriver…

Alzheimers Advocacy

Note: I was provided a complimentary Rivet Revolution bracelet.All opinions, though are my own and I will be at the absolute front of the line to do be a part of eradicating Alzheimer’s. 

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Next Steps: My Job Hunt

Now that my father-in-law has passed away, it’s time to reshuffle the career/life deck of cards. While he was with us, I had to be home, and that requirement limited my vocational options.

Writing this blog is my way of forcing myself to put some of the building blocks in place (resume updated? check!) and organize my thoughts (while simultaneously asking for help/ideas/support).

First Steps

I am transitioning out of my freelance commitments at Weaving Influence and the Lead Change Group. I started working there in October 2014 (although I had been a friend of the organization before that), and am abundantly grateful for what I have gained from WI and LCG. It has definitely been more than a paycheck.

I updated my resume (here it is!).

I added a passage to my LinkedIn profile, detailing the demands of being a caregiver. I don’t know why this seems like such a renegade thing to do because it was most definitely “real” work but the management skills, empathy, and paraprofessional medical capabilities needed to shepherd someone through mini-strokes, dental crises and two recurrences of cancer have to count for something.

Options

There are several options as I see it now, some more realistic than others.

Add A Second Part-Time Job (virtual or brick and mortar)

Now that Dad is gone, so is the restriction that I be at home. For that reason, my “Plan A” is to keep my part time position with a B2B newsletter, which takes from roughly 6:45 am – 12:15 pm every day, and add “something else” to the mix.

Maybe that “something else” will be, for example, something out of the house from 2-6 pm.

Maybe it will be something virtual (I have feelers out for that).

There are pros and cons to both. I love working from home and honestly wouldn’t mind working from home, 100%. However, I also realize there may be some value for me, growth-wise and spirit-wise, to interact more directly with human beings in person more than I do now.

(Note: I know I have left out the option of “one full time job.” Time will tell and obviously that’s not ruled out, but I love my current B2B newsletter job and am not ready to give it up barring the most amazing offer/opportunity ever.)

Write a Book

On the one hand, I feel that writing a book is one of those things that you should only do because you have to, not to make money or meet some other perceived external need.

On the other hand, I work with many authors though Weaving Influence, and I often find myself saying, “I wish I had my own book to promote.”

I have set aside my idea of writing about Camp Gordon Johnston (for now). I am toying with the idea of writing about caregiving, but want to do that while the memories are fresh. I also have an edge idea of a picture-book type thing (comedy) related to elder care.

Hmmm.

Be an Elder Care Sherpa

This is the one that, if I had a little more courage, surplus organizational skills, and enough income to build it as a practice, would, in my opinion, eliminate (or reduce) the types of frustrations we had as caregivers, for an easy-to-navigate resource directory, for advocacy with physicians/dentists/other providers, for assistance centralizing all of the pieces of information we were invariably hunting for, for helping cut through the conflicting pieces of information we received. The key to being a kick-a** elder care sherpa (in addition to the courage and organizational skills) would be a true heart for eldercare (especially the element of serving the families doing the eldercare) with the counteracting asset of not being personally emotionally invested in each elder’s life.

The challenge of being a loving family member, marginally equipped to handle all of the onslaught of needs/requests/demands while also working to make a living, is daunting. An eldercare sherpa could help streamline the demands, in a caring yet businesslike way, while *possibly* helping that family find a little more peace of mind (and get a little more sleep every night).

Strengths and Weaknesses

As I cast my net to seek new opportunities, and in the event you’re reading this and are aware of something, here are my top three (self-perceived) strengths (and a bit about weaknesses):

A love of writing, decent writing skills, and an intent to always improve

The ability to apply social media skills to helping people extend their messages and refine their presence online

Being capable of “connecting dots” and helping find unlikely intersections between people/entities that help both be better

As far as weaknesses, I guess the upside of my weaknesses is that I have pretty transparently written about them here, here and here. (TL:DR – taming the confidence monster.)

I know I have a tendency to focus on a single pine needle to the point that I may not realize the entire forest is on fire, but attention to detail is not always a big thing (unless the forest is on fire).

Why Change Matters Now

There’s a very practical reason I need to change now. With Wayne’s dad gone, I need to redouble my efforts to contribute to our family’s bottom line, especially until we can make a change to our housing situation to save money (and that’s going to take time).

While I am very flexible about what I do next, I also agree with my friend Dwayne and what he said in his awesome blog post about finding purpose:

Our souls know what we are meant to do, and will nudge us in that direction when we are heading somewhere else.

I was also talking on Twitter with @lisamunro, who asked via this tweet, “Do you feel that your work is a calling? If so, how do you know? Can we have more than 1?” Her question led me to revisit this tribute post to my friend Jarrod, who passed away at far too young an age. I closed out that post with this quote from Leigh Caraccioli (I would link to Leigh but I can’t find a recent link, sadly):

When you live your passion, there is no line dividing what you do and who you are.
They are one.

 

Besides these two wonderful, inspiring quotes, I won’t add some self-help inspirational offering from Pinterest about how wonderful change is. I know change is a good thing (mostly) but primarily I am torn between a tiny sense of adventure, the fact that I’m still processing the freedom, emotional and physical, that came with dad’s passing, more than a little anxiety, and the hope that I can find someone/someplace where I can make a difference while meeting our family’s financial obligations.

I would love any ideas/networking recommendations you have to give!

Communications Job Search

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

A Late Cleanup

Personal Organization

Three years ago, I came home from my last day of work at Healthy Kids and placed a box of assorted “office stuff” in our dining room (which we don’t use for dining). There it sat. For three yearsEvery time I walked by it, I used a few brain (and heart) cells thinking “I really should deal with that box.”

As this picture shows, the box fell apart. It accumulated items that had never graced my office (like the “triathlon” license plate holder). I don’t know what was keeping me from dealing with it. Maybe some deep-seated processing I still needed to do about leaving Healthy Kids after almost 20 years. Maybe something less complicated, like laziness.

Time for a Small Win

I am currently reading the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do by Charles Duhigg. This book is full of many incredible takeaways but I’ll save most of those for a different time. For now, I will point out the author’s emphasis on the power of a “small win” to make a “big difference.”

The power of “small wins” lies in the fact that they create momentum for behavioral changes that evolve into bigger wins over time.

Walking past that falling-apart box was a downer every time. A non-productive downer that did nothing to contribute to the fact that I need to physically clean my environment in order to have more emotional breathing space.

Walking past my sock drawer is the opposite feeling from the “old office memorabilia box.” Ever since my friend Fred Davenport challenged me to blog about my sock drawer (really, he did!) and I cleaned it out as a result, it has been pristine. I take care of it because I feel accountable to my friend (not that I expect him to drop by and inspect my sock drawer).

I guess the difference with the “office box” is the fact that now my accountability is just to myself.

What Was Getting In The Way?

The box and its sad neglected state signify at least three things to me.

No Place to Work

I think one factor keeping me from dealing with the “office box” is that I don’t have anywhere to go (as far as a workspace) despite the fact that I am working around 30 hours a week on my two awesome freelance jobs. The family pictures, the treasured glass “bluebird of happiness” Tenley gave me in kindergarten, the crystal clock that had been a wedding gift and became my office time piece — there is no place for them right now.

When I first started working from home while caregiving, I would move my laptop and other work-related materials into Tenley’s room in order to have a facsimile of a “workspace.” Over time, though, it just became easier to work from the dining room table.

I know our virtual world is making it possible to work from almost anywhere, but I miss the structure of sentimental “things” around me. 

Unresolved Relationships

What do unresolved relationships have to do with cleaning out a box? You would think absolutely nothing, but certain items in the “office box” remind me that loops did not get closed. The framed print of our corporate values like “family focus” and “transparency” reminds me that I never got feedback from the people I had supervised once I received a lateral transfer and was no longer their supervisor.

On the flip side, time has done its work in some ways. One bridge I really felt I had burned turned out to be not so much burned as in need of reinforcement.

I am first and foremost a people person and somehow leaving the items in that box undisturbed kept me from having to accept, again, that there are parts of my Healthy Kids experience that simply have to go in the “it is what it is” category. 

Clutter is Overwhelming and Paralyzing

You know, I don’t know the solution to the fact that I allow clutter to accumulate yet would feel so much freer if I would just deal with it. I recently went to a new place for personal services (think: nails, hair, massages – don’t really want to single anyone out). While I wasn’t unhappy with the individual’s work, I was turned off by the general disorganization at their workspace.

My entire house (except for my sock drawer and the space where the office box used to sit) is a generally disorganized workspace. If I don’t like it when I’m a customer, how does the disorder around me impact my spirit and ability to achieve my goals?

Back to Those Small Wins

I’m not sure what exactly prompted me to clean up the “office box.” Okay, I’ll admit I was running low on blog topics and needed something to talk about.

But I thought about how I feel every time I use that utterly orderly sock drawer.

And how outer order will (may?) bring inner calm.

And I found myself one small win.

Three years late, and admittedly small, but still a win.

Personal Organization

Personal Organization

This post was inspired by the Mama’s Losin’ It writing prompt: Write a blog post inspired by the word: late.

Personal Organization

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

7 Takeaways from the 12 Days of Fitness Challenge

As I wrote in my guest post for the American Heart Association’s #BreakUpWithSalt initiative, about six in ten caregivers in a national survey by the National Alliance for Caregiving reported that their eating (63%) and exercising (58%) habits are worse than before. I am among those six in ten.

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.

Fitness Goals

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

The Towel

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!

Fitness GoalsThe 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.

Accountability Matters

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.

Fitness Goals

My bedhead and I earned my towel after my 12th class, an Indorow class. Pictured here with David Griffin, instructor.

Looks like I am going to need a few MORE towels.

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

More Fitness, Less Sodium, More Health

I am 52 now, so I have been through my share of exercise plans, food management programs, and lifestyle modification efforts. Some were “one-hit wonders” that weren’t actually so wonderful (anyone remember Tab? Take it from me: a Tab and carrots meal plan is not much of a meal plan).

I am happy to have been invited to share a guest post at the American Heart Association #BreakUpWithSalt initiative. There are so many interesting posts there from my fellow #BreakUpWithSalt bloggers, such as Mary Makes Good’s post about discovering a low sodium diet and Working Daughter’s 6 Ways to Lower Sodium for Caregivers and Parents.

My post is about my personal journey as I navigated the territory of caregiving and came to terms with the fact that caregiving can have destructive effects on the health of caregivers. I explore the role too much sodium may be playing in my health challenges.

To read the other guest posts and explore resources to manage your sodium intake and improve your cardiac health,, please visit the #BreakUpWithSalt sodium reduction initiative page.

Cardiac Health

Photo Credit: Morguefile

Note: I was compensated for my post which will appear on the American Heart Association Sodium Breakup website. All opinions (especially the one about Tab and carrots) are my own.

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

My Caregiver Wish List

This year, my children’s Christmas lists were, like my children, very different from each other. My daughter’s list was detailed, with a key explaining which items needed to be ordered online and which could be purchased in town. She started the list with a lovely statement about her gratitude to us as parents and helpfully provided direct links to products to save me time (and make sure I ordered the right thing).

My son? I’m still waiting for any kind of list. There have been a few verbal requests, and he has put two items in my Amazon cart, but that’s it.

Caregiving Challenges

Me? If I were to get an opportunity to tell Santa what I really want, my request would probably focus on what I really need as a caregiver:

A Game Plan

When dad moved in with us at the end of May 2014, everything happened rapidly. He had been living by himself (with significant help from us in the form of multiple visits daily to ensure medication compliance, etc.), he sustained a subdural hematoma from a fall and Wayne felt it was critical for him to live with us. He threatened to sign himself out of the rehab hospital, and next thing we knew it he was living with us.

Santa, it’s a little late for us, but if you run across any families who may be on the verge of taking on the task of caregiving, tell them to pour some hot cocoa and get on the same page. They won’t regret it. Caregiving works best when it is a joint family decision, not a situation you back into by necessity.

A Housekeeper

As I have written about here, and as anyone who steps foot in my house knows, housekeeping is not my forte. I am not proud of this, and am always trying to improve, but it doesn’t get any easier when you add the component of an elderly relative with self care challenges. In addition, we are almost always home; the wear and tear on the house is brutal.

If you really want to delight me, Santa, tuck a housekeeper or two in that sleigh and deploy them weekly (or even monthly), at least to the one bathroom in the house none of us can bear to go into anymore.

An Elf Who Specializes in Home Mobility Adaptations

There are so many of our home components that need to be adapted for Dad to be safer (and us to have more peace of mind): the toilet seat needs to be raised, the throw rugs need to be removed (because they are tripping hazards), there need to be grab bars multiple places in the bathroom. We need a shower chair. Some of these things are easy to do (and affordable enough). Some are “bigger” modifications. But they all take time and planning.

Santa, a grab bar may not be very festive but the prospect of peace of mind from less worry of falls is pretty darn merry.

A Train of Thought

While a trip on the Polar Express sounds charming, what I really need this year is for my own personal train of thought to make it from the home station to the destination depot without multiple unplanned detours along the way. Without a sprint to the bathroom when I hear the sounds I’ve come to know as impending instability. Without a request to turn the tv up (again).

Santa, all I want for Christmas is to to be able to remember where I put the ………

The Ability to Go to the Bathroom Worry-Free

You know how infants always seem to get fussy when you sit down to eat? There’s a similar principle with the elderly: close the bathroom door to do your business and the “get up too fast/get dizzy/find yourself at risk of falling” cycle activates. It’s UNCANNY. I’m not sure what the cumulative effects are of always being worried, but I know they aren’t health boosters.

Four minutes, Santa. Four. Worry. Free. Minutes so I don’t have to ho ho hold it.

Infinite Copies of the Meds List

I have written the Dad’s meds list by hand approximately 2,435 times in 2.5 years. Okay, maybe not that many but it feels like it! I do know that there are apps for this kind of thing, but I haven’t started using one yet. You would think, in this era of Electronic Health Information, that this would all be in the cloud. Right? I can attest that the last thing on your mind when you arrive at the ER after a fall is having a hard copy of the meds list.

In addition to these infinite meds list copies, Santa, they need to magically revise themselves when something changes. While we’re at it, this magical nothing-critical-is-ever-forgotten world will also make his insurance cards, social security card, and ID card magically appear when needed, rather than being at home where they are not helping anyone.

A Visit by the Mobile DMV

Spoiler: There isn’t a mobile DMV. But this is my list and Santa’s my benevolent all-giving fantasy guy right now so let me go with it. It didn’t seem like a big deal when Dad’s driver’s license expired, but then there was the document we needed to have notarized, with an ID for proof of identity, there was voting (he voted absentee but in general, it could have been requested at the polls), and there will be other life events.

Santa, if there isn’t a mobile DMV, can you and the elves come over and help with the arduous process of getting him dressed, to the car safely, out of the car at the DMV, tolerating the line, understanding the instructions he is being given in order to have a valid State of Florida ID. Please?

Unlimited Legal Assistance

Growing old, even if your life is relatively uncomplicated, brings with it the need to get legal affairs in order. Power of attorney, a medical representative, DNR orders (if you choose to have a DNR order), a will, and a host of other legal matters that need to be put in place. That doesn’t happen for free, and it is not always straightforward.

Santa, I imagine in today’s litigious society your attorneys may be busy putting warning labels on toys and all, but aren’t they free about ten months out of the year? Could they help a caregiver out? (And while we’re at it, an accountant as a stocking stuffer would be a plus.)

More Health Professionals Who Care About The Family

As I mentioned in this post, Dr. Daniel Bower, an oral surgeon who saw dad when he had a dental emergency, is the only dentist, doctor, nurse, or other health professional in the past 2.5 years who has looked at Wayne and me and said, “and how are you doing?” It’s not that we would have flooded him with the whole story or a litany of our challenges, but honestly the fact that he acknowledged that caregiving is hard on the family was big. 

While I could cite statistic after statistic confirming that caregivers experience stress, I know you have toys to make and flight plans to file, Santa. Just remind medical professionals to take a moment for empathy with caregiving families, okay?

Agencies and People Who Tell it Like it Is

One of the biggest frustrations of caregiving is the fact that well-meaning people tell you things that end up not being true or relevant to your situation. Relatively early on, someone with a home health care agency recommended another agency that, according to them, “will help you fill out the Aid in Attendance paperwork and file it — it’s just something they do.”

While the agency did help us with the paper work (which was denied after a months-long wait), when we eventually ended up at the Leon County Veterans’ Affairs Office, they said “why didn’t you come to us first?” We didn’t know to do that. The original agency we were referred to does help families fill out the paperwork, but judging by all the emails we still get from them offering to “manage our wealth,” it’s clear they had an ulterior motive.

I could give other examples but they are all the same essential model: someone tells you something they think will be helpful and you end up chasing your tail.

It also takes a lot of digging to find some incredible (and often free or low-cost) resources. We finally got hooked up with the free in-home respite from the Alzheimers Project here in Tallahassee, which uses Americorps volunteers.

Okay Santa, this is a lot to ask but we could sure use more “nice” information givers (who give the right info) than “naughty” (who mean well but send us down the wrong path). Our family’s bottom line and peace of mind are riding on this.

Patience

Dad’s cognitive issues are minor in comparison to others I’ve heard about. I know I have high expectations of myself, but I am saddened, often, about the fact that I find patience in short supply. It’s not his fault I didn’t plan ahead to be prepared to leave for a doctor’s appointment, not his fault that whatever happened in his brain stole his empathy, that it doesn’t do any good to say, “If I could just send out these four tweets, I can answer your question.”

I want patience, Santa, and I want it now! 

Grace for the Big Moments

The last 2.5 years have had their hurdles: the dental emergency, the head and neck cancer diagnosis with the related 35 radiation visits, 53 hours without electricity (or tv, his one constant) during the Hurricane Hermine aftermath.

The medical parts of Dad’s situation have compromised his privacy and eroded his dignity. More than the physical procedures, I will come away from this period of caregiving with a few significant moments embedded in my brain. I’m grateful for medical professionals who undoubtedly studied for years and learned complicated math, science, and anatomy, but for whom the real test is looking someone in the eyes who may or may not completely understand and saying, “this may be cancer. This could be very threatening to your survival.” Dr. Philip Sharp and Dr. Joseph Soto have both passed that test with flying colors.

I know you can’t take away those life altering moments, Santa, and I know that it is a privilege and duty curated out of love to be present for them. While hoping for a season of magic for children worldwide, I also ask for an extra helping of grace to be the caregiver Dad deserves.

Caregiving Challenges

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Women, Don’t Wait. Change Our World Now!

I was recently participating in a thread on Facebook. It was a thread on the personal page of someone who is a co-moderator of one of the extremely fun running-based Facebook groups I’m in. I knew if he asked for honest political opinions, and requested that those of us participating in the thread be respectful, we would be deleted (or our comments would).

One person on the thread explained who he is voting for, specifically because of that candidate’s position on mandatory vaccines. He went on to explain that it may seem “laughable” to others that he is a single-issue voter, but he feels THAT strongly.

How Many Issues Do We Have to Have?

While I do not agree with the individual on the thread I referred to above about the issue that has resulted in him being a “single-issue” voter, I understand how one single issue, when it affects your family, will drive your political choices. But I have a choice to make: how to use my voice to impact multiple issues.

MomsRising is a group of more than a million moms who take on the most critical issues facing women, mothers, and families by educating the public and mobilizing massive grassroots actions to:

  • Bring the voices and real world experiences of women and mothers straight to our local, state, and nation’s leaders;
  • Amplify women’s voices and policy issues in the national dialogue & in the media across all platforms (from print, to radio, to blogs, social media, and more);
  • Accelerate grassroots impact on Capitol Hill and at state capitols across the country;
  • Hold corporations accountable for fair treatment of women and mothers & for ensuring the safety of their products.

Throughout the recent We Won’t Wait 2016 conference (read about it in the Washington Post here.), which I participated in as part of the MomsRising delegation, we were encouraged not to be single issue voters, to educate ourselves about the broad array of issues facing women, especially women of color and low-income women. Issues of emphasis included access to paid leave, the right to good jobs and fair wages, high-quality and affordable child care and elder care, care giving (yep, I could relate to that one!), immigration reform, reproductive healthcare, and racial justice.

Back when the awesome Sili Recio of My Mamihood asked me to consider being on the Moms Rising Steering Committee for Florida, I didn’t question the power of moms (as IF!), I didn’t mind adding one more thing to my plate (because the issues Moms Rising espouses matter). But I explained that some of the issues Moms Rising advocates for are ones I feel more passionate about than others. In fact, I am not always fully aligned with their position.

Her advice? “You’ll get info about all the issues but you run with what’s in your heart.”

Setting the Tone

Although Kelly Tsai, Spoken Word Poet/Filmmaker was the official first performance, the literal first performance came from the hundreds of members of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, who made an unforgettable entrance to the breakfast hall, chanting “We Won’t Wait! We Won’t Wait!” This was the first conference I’ve been to where we’ve been told “no chanting on the way from breakfast to the conference area”!

Political Advocacy

An attendee with the National Domestic Workers Alliance enters the room.

Wages

I learned more about the move to raise the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour, and the #FightFor15 movement. The minimum wage would be at least $15 an hour if the minimum wage we had back in 1968 were adjusted for inflation and for the productivity gains we achieved since then. (The previous fact and more can be found at MoveOn.org Petitions.)

Another critical wage-related issue I learned about was the continuing challenges faced by those who work for a tipped minimum wage. The Restaurant Opportunities Centers United had a large and vocal delegation at We Won’t Wait, supporting one fair wage. On their website, they share:

…most restaurant workers earn the bulk of their income through tips. With the federal tipped minimum wage being $2.13 an hour and lower than the regular minimum wage in most states, their base pay results in $0 paychecks. Although some restaurant workers do make great money living off tips, they are the exception.

The majority of tipped restaurant workers live shift-to-shift. The national median wage for tipped workers (including tips) is $8.75 an hour. They are dependent on the generosity of customers for their livelihood.

More than 70% of servers are women. Unfortunately, sexual harassment is all too often undermined as being ‘just part of the job’ in the restaurant industry. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the restaurant industry is the single-largest source of sexual harassment charges. Hundreds of our members have shared stories with us about being touched or treated inappropriately by their customers, and not being able to do anything about it because they depended on those same customers for a  decent tip.

Child Care, Elder Care, and Caregiving

Women often have to choose between their paycheck and caring for their child (or their elder in my case). Four in ten private-sector workers and 80% of low-wage workers cannot earn a single paid sick day. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, women are likely to spend an average of 12 years out of the workforce raising children and caring for an older relative or friend. Learn more info about the impact of caregiving for elders on women here.

I heard Emily Uy say, “Getting sick in America is very difficult. I was a caregiver unable to get my own care,” echoing the voice in the back of my head that says, “who’s going to take care of Dad if you get ill/hospitalized?”

I learned about the Fair Care Pledge, a joint initiative of Hand in Hand, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and Care.com. The Fair Care Pledge is taken by people who employ others in their homes to provide fair pay, clear expectations, and paid time off.

Immigration Reform

Ana Cañenguez, an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador who faces deportation, accompanied by her young daughter, asked “what will she do if I leave?” Since We Won’t Wait, I’ve learned more about Ana’s story, visualized her life in El Salvador (remembering the time I spent there in 2014 and the conversations I had with people who face gang violence and corruption juxtaposed against a BEAUTIFUL country with beautiful people) and the perils of her journey to the US, and come to admire her tenacity and true grace in the face of a horrible conundrum. (More about Ana here.)

canenguez-daughter

For more from MomsRising about their efforts to protect family unity, ensure our public policies address the concerns of immigrant women and children, and end human rights abuses in the name of immigration law enforcement, click here.

Voting Rights

Infused through all the passionate speakers we heard was the one action almost all of us can take to make sure we elect leaders who will advance our agenda: VOTE.

When states make it difficult for qualified voters to vote, we can advocate for change. (A review of current challenges to voting rights here.) As speakers at We Won’t Wait shared about challenges voters face now, in 2016, my mind kept going back to Edwina Stephens, who told me about black voters being forced to count soap bubbles or solve complicated mathematical equations in order to prove their suitability to be registered voters. How are we still having discussions that echo THOSE scenarios in the 21st century?

One speaker urged us to implore Walmart (among other large employers) to allow their employees three hours of leave to vote. To me, this is a no-brainer. If it’s too much of an economic burden for Wal-Mart, I’ll go to WM and be the warm body with a pulse that keeps the ship afloat for three hours. Surely they can spare that. Get involved by educating yourself and signing the petition here. I did.

Gun Safety

I have been virtually silent online about my opinions regarding gun safety, Black Lives Matter, and the plethora of policy and societal issues inherent in these topics. The one single time I posted a black friend’s commentary on Stop and Frisk, about how he was stopped on the way to church for no discernible reason, about how his 5 year old piped up from the back seat, “did he stop us because we are black?,” a loved friend who is a law enforcement spouse pushed back about her disagreement and her contention that law enforcement officers and family, having families of their own, truly want the best for everyone whose paths they cross. I feel utterly stuck in a mushy middle ground between people who are pointing out systemic issues within our law enforcement community as they relate to the treatment of black people, and my many friends in the law enforcement community, who I love and respect.

I still haven’t figured out how to navigate that divide, to be honest.

What I do know is, as I stood among the 750+ people at the “Our Families Are Worth the Fight” vigil at Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC, that the grief of the mothers who have lost their black sons in law enforcement-related situations that have gray areas at best … that grief WAS PALPABLE. In that moment, I wasn’t a policy advocate, interested party, or generic fellow American. I was a fellow mother, someone who had brought someone into the world and held big dreams for that someone. I felt their pain. I determined to learn more and form a more strongly articulated position, while trying to remain respectful to everyone in my universe. More about the vigil here.

Political Advocacy

NOTE: Her name is correctly spelled “Lucia.” My apologies!

Representative Donna Edwards, of Maryland’s 4th District, a speaker at the vigil:

There’s much work to be done. You have to be the ones to define that work, to say “here is what our priority list is.”

The greatest leverage that you have right now is the leverage and the power of your vote. As black women, we are the most powerful and consistent voting block in this country, but we need to make sure that our elected officials know that we understand the power of our vote. When we give it over on November 8, we’re gonna come knocking on November 9.

I am the proud mother of a young black man and that means something for me.. that HIS voice needs to be heard on Capitol Hill too … for the sons and the daughters that we have to have our conversation with  and we have to say to them “be careful what you do when you go outside” and sometimes it doesn’t matter how careful you are. You are still in harm’s way.

Political Advocacy Is Not Just About the Specific Issues; It’s About Your Approach

In one lengthy blog post, I have seriously only TOUCHED on the issues affecting women and the strategies for resolving them. But I need to comment on something that is not an issue; rather, it’s a way of being in the world.

At the Freedom Square vigil, one of the speakers was Monique Harris of Hand in Hand, who lives with Cerebral Palsy.  She talked about living with a disability as well as her fears for her son, a black man with autism whose behaviors can be misunderstood. Due to her Cerebral Palsy, she has difficulty communicating verbally. BUT the organizers created a scenario where she spoke, then a facilitator repeated her words in the event that we had experienced difficulty understanding Monique. That sounds minor, but it wasn’t to Monique and it wasn’t to me. I have been at many other conferences where this type of message would just have been read by the facilitator, or printed in the program. It mattered to hear Monique’s OWN VOICE.

Another of the speakers was Aber Kawas of the Arab American Association of New York. As she spoke eloquently about facing anti-Muslim prejudice in America, someone with a mental disturbance tried to disrupt her speech. She kept speaking, completely nonplussed. The organizers of the vigil took the man aside and tried to de-escalate him. Simultaneously, a group of women lined up between Aber and the disruptor, a solid line of sisterhood, giving her space to share her message safely while demonstrating, visually, SOLIDARITY.

Women, Succeeding Together

I was blown away by Labor Secretary Tom Perez’s speech.  While there were many quotable sound bites, this one sums up the point of We Won’t Wait.

Political Advocacy

How to Get Involved

There are so many ways to get involved! As Feminista Jones explained, there’s a role for everyone: from the foot soldiers who make a difference by showing up, through the guides who support, the visionaries who write/document/photograph, the funders, through the change agents, who affect direct change.

Whether you’re a foot soldier or a change agent, or any of the roles in between, take that first step today. Do it for your daughter, your friend, your sister, your aunt, any woman (or man) in your life who needs your voice to be heard on any or all of the issues mentioned here.

Take that first step by going to www.momsrising.org and adding your email address:

Political Advocacy

(If you prefer Spanish, Moms Rising is available as MamasConPoder here. Si tu prefieres español, haga click aquí.)

In one of these week’s prompts, Mama Kat encouraged us to write a blog post inspired by the word “change.” I’m so grateful to MomsRising and We Won’t Wait 2016 for the opportunity to be inspired by continue learning, supporting, and advocating for my fellow women and moms. Because, indeed, every mother does count.

Political Advocacy

Political Advocacy

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.