I started this blog as an outlet for my musings, insights and irritations. Using the old adage that you should be willing to see everything you write on the front page of the New York Times, I am usually circumspect about how I present my opinions.

This blog is linked on my business website so I have slowly reduced my political rants so as not to alienate any potential clients.

Given that I have woken to the disturbing development of a Trump presidency I have decided to make a few things clear.

I am an extremely progressive liberal person. I believe in protecting the constitution and all the rights it affords American citizens.

  • I support free, nonjudgemental access to abortion.
  • I support equal rights,  safety and marriage equality for LGBT people.
  • I support and believe in safety net programs for healthcare, food, shelter and retirement for our vulnerable citizens.
  • I support free speech and a free press.
  • I support worker protections like EEO/AA, workers comp, unions,  and all other anti-discrimination laws.
  • I believe that sexism, racism, xenophobia, and other biases, institutional, cultural or implicit, need to be defeated through education.
  • I believe you should pay your taxes to support the collective good like schools, infrastructure, police & fire services, and trash removal.
  • I could go on but you get the idea.

Now. If you believe that my beliefs are incompatible with yours please do not hire me to consult or coach for you. I am perfectly capable of – and indeed enjoy – working with people whose opinions differ from mine but I am not willing to pretend that my beliefs are something they are not.

I work actively to make the world a better place according to my values and I hope you do to. Maybe we can do it together.

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I often write about free speech on this blog. It is one of my core values and its a gut-check reminder that civil liberties only work if they are guaranteed for all citizens. Once again a smart, thoughtful friend of mine has written something that I think it’s important to share.

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by Jason Jaffery

There is a pivotal moment in the Warren Beatty film “Bulworth” when the homeless man played by Amiri Baraka shouts at Beatty’s politician character, Sen. Jay Bulworth – “Bulworth! You got to be a spirit! You can’t be no ghost.”

Invariably when I find myself involved with a question where someone’s rights are being denied this quote pops into my head. This year, during this presidential election, more than any other time during my nearly 25-year career as a civil libertarian, an activist and a non-profit leader, this quote has become a guiding principle.

Much ink has been spilled on why this presidential election matters so distinctly. I agree with all the reasons articulated for why Donald Trump is so monumentally unfit for the presidency.  But I’ll add an additional reason why I believe Trump is a danger.

Trump either doesn’t understand the U.S Constitution, or doesn’t care about its meaning. Most likely both.

As we consider the ongoing experiment of participatory democracy, the success of that experiment is predicated on our civil society adhering to an articulated set of shared norms and values.

This means that, however much we might disagree on issues like abortion, LGBT rights, free speech or racial justice, we can at least agree that there is a process for deciding what laws apply, and a higher wisdom that we can refer to when the path towards those decisions gets muddled.

The Constitution is that guide, and for whatever murk might exist in its words that require interpretation by the judiciary, it is the glue that holds our democracy together.

Donald Trump has weakened that glue.

Trump’s casual disregard for the principles inherent in the Constitution strikes a deep chill in me.

His disregard for constitutional principles – that a free press should be protected from punishment and retribution; that a woman making reproductive health choices should be free from punishment and retribution; that free and fair elections are possible and should not be subject to manipulation – has and will continue to have far reaching consequences.

Trump’s disregard has caused tremendous damage to the country, and our collective confidence in the protections afforded by the Constitution. No matter the outcome of next week’s election, hard work and allegiance to core American values are what will help us survive as a republic.

Which leads me back to the quote with which I began.

In the face of a crisis like Trump, and the overwhelming shift that is occurring in our society, it is understandable to freeze. The level of stress induced by Trump’s behavior, and the behavior he has inspired in his countless supporters, is truly overwhelming. Many friends and associates have expressed a feeling of helplessness and despair.

But we are not helpless. We can act. In fact, we must. Because to act is to be a spirit, not a ghost.

This election and what it has wrought should be a national call to service. Each of us can and should be a spirit. Participate – be present, be visible.

Whatever action we take—calling on friends and family to make sure they have a plan to vote; knocking on a stranger’s door to provide early voting times and locations; serving as a legal, trained poll observer to ensure everyone’s voting rights are protected – is a spirited act.

As is making a contribution to the candidate who is committed to protecting to Constitution, and whom we can hold accountable if and when her administration makes choices with which we disagree.

I have done all of the above and hope you will too. It is our right, and our duty as Americans, to be a spirit not a ghost, at every opportunity—from this moment until the election, and every day afterwards.

Be a spirit, not a ghost.

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I am privileged to have some really smart friends who often write things I wish I had said myself, or from a perspective outside of mine. Today I exercise my privilege by posting a Guest Rant from a sharp, insightful and passionate woman with her permission of course.

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I’m sick and tired of the “lesser of two evils” narrative. I already voted for Hillary–proudly and with excitement. I don’t believe she is evil–and I’m pretty cynical about politicians.

If you hate Hillary–if you think she is corrupt and evil–I will gently suggest to you that you are as wrong as a wrong thing can be, and that you are buying a deliberate media narrative that I’ve been watching in horror for nearly 30 years.

Sexism is a helluva drug–and I can’t think of another American female political figure who has faced the degree of rank misogyny that HRC has for nearly 3 decades.

And yet…she’s still standing. Given what she’s endured in this campaign–and in all the years since Bill first decided to run for the presidency–that pretty much counts as a miracle in my book.

That is not to gloss over Hillary’s flaws. She is not perfect–and neither am I. The difference is that I’ve been able to live my life in relative privacy and I’ve never had thousands (millions?) of people’s lives in my hands. I wonder how well I would have done had I been in her place? How well do you think YOU would have done? And are you sure of your answer? Why?

We essentially ask our leaders to be perfect–but how can they be? They take on the responsibilities that the rest of us will not–CANNOT–even contemplate.

There is a reason the Emperor Constantine waited until he was on his deathbed to be baptized.

I once heard Jimmy Carter–a genuinely good, kind, FAITHFUL man–talking about the terrible decisions that he had to make while he was in office–and he’s the only president in my lifetime who did not lead us into war or preside over one that was in progress. He said there were times that he simply had to lay his faith aside when he was President in order to do his job.

I can only imagine the toll that took on him.

I also keep thinking about my favorite episode of “West Wing,” (“Take This Sabbath Day”) where President Jed Bartlett allows a federal prisoner to be put to death, even though his faith and his heart cry out against the evil of the death penalty. Watch that episode to see what it is like to be the most powerful elected leader in the world–and to have zero power to stop something you believe to be an offense against God and humanity.

The requirements of the job are superhuman. I would not want to have to make them–or to have to answer to God for the choices and outcomes.

But I believe–I might even go so far as to say that I KNOW–that Hillary is a person of faith, and I trust her to try her best to listen to what God is calling her to do–and to do it, even when it is hard and heartbreaking.

She is not perfect. She has made many mistakes–and will make more. Her mistakes will be so much more costly than any you or I will make–and she will be the one who has to look in the mirror, or lay her head on her pillow at night, and ask for God’s guidance and forgiveness.

So I will pray for her, because she is willing to take on a job that would destroy most of us. I believe she wants that job because she loves this country, and because she believes she can make life better for ALL of us–but especially the most vulnerable in our midst. I believe this because I have been watching her for almost 30 years.

No matter what you THINK you know about her–Whitewater, Bill, Benghazi, emails–*I* know this: She has spent her entire life fighting for the people that Jesus fought for–the poor, the marginalized, women and children. The record is all there if you only bother to look for it.

She will make mistakes–and I will hold her accountable for those. But she will also admit when she’s wrong, and ask forgiveness, which is something I rarely–if ever–see male politicians do.

She will push policies I don’t agree with–and I will push back when she does. But I learned a valuable lesson from the Tea Party (and from Bernie Sanders as well, TBQH)–intellectual/political purity is a recipe for disaster. Politics is the art of the possible–and that requires compromises and deal-making. My far-left heart finds this almost intolerable, but my brain–the one reluctantly trained in logic, statistics, and data analysis–knows the truth. We move forward an inch at a time–slowly and laboriously, but in the direction of justice and peace if we just keep trying.

And that’s why I’m With Her.  If you give her a chance, I believe she will lead us in the right direction. And if she doesn’t, I’ll be the first one in line to tell her she’s missed the mark–as I recall my own failings and pray for her, myself, you, this nation, and the world.

Kyrie eleison. GO VOTE. Amen.

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It’s not quite time yet for looking back on the highs and lows of 2016, but going to the Board of Elections and voting today threw me into a reflective mood. Off the top of my head I counted five unexpected milestones in my life so far this year.

#5 – Charging what I’m worth.

When I started consulting years ago it never occurred to me that I should be paid. I was very invested in helping people and using my skills for good. I was doing people “favors.”

One day a good friend expressed shock  when he found out that I didn’t charge for consulting and it woke me up to the fact that I was perpetuating another female stereotype by not valuing myself. Of course I started by charging ridiculously low fees and being embarrassed by the transaction.

I have been slowly creeping up to industry norms for coaching and consulting even though my impulse is to offer a discount to every nonprofit, or women’s organization, or client who I imagine is paid poorly.

It was never about the money but now that I have quit my job to consult, the reality of paying bills and a kid soon to be in college means I am biting my tongue and charging what I am worth. And so far no one is complaining. Which brings me to…

#4 – Quitting my job.

When I resigned from Case Western Reserve I had been employed there in one position or another since 2001. I was hired one week after I’d finished my Masters and two weeks before my mother died. It was a big transition year.

I loved many things about my work at CWRU, and I accomplished a great deal over the years, but it was time to move on.  Letting go of the habit of over work has been the strangest transition so far. Between consulting nights & weekends, and volunteering various places, I was working a 60-70 hour week for about five years. Now working 40 hours feels lazy. If I take on more clients that may change but right now it gives me time for …

#3 – Separating from my kid.

Along with the frenzied senior year activities of college visits, applications, essays and, of course the FAFSA, I am getting a glimpse of the future where our daughter is no longer a satellite in our orbit, and we become a satellite in hers. This is a very good thing and a very deep lesson that won’t be mastered quickly.

In the meantime because I am working from home I can generally stop what I am doing and have lunch with her and hear about her day when she gets home. I joke that for her senior year she gets the stay-at-home mother she craved when she was in elementary school.

It’s actually an unexpected and lovely byproduct of quitting my job that we have extra time together for the next 10 months. Even though she is spending a great deal of time out of the house taking some college courses, doing her extra curriculars, and volunteering as a fall fellow for the Clinton campaign. Which brings me to …

#2 – Voting for Hillary Clinton.

That was one for the books. Even though our entire family and almost everyone we know is donating money and working like crazy for the Clinton campaign, I paused before I filled in the bubble on my ballot. I suddenly felt emotional that I was actually voting for a woman for president.

And specifically this woman who I admire and respect and disagree with.

So far during this election cycle I have cried three times. First during Hillary’s acceptance speech at the convention, and then while watching some particularly disturbing reporting and awful backlash about sexism, and today when I filled out my ballot. I didn’t think this would happen in my lifetime.

#1 – Milestone for 2016

I am planning to add the final milestone to this list on November 9th with something else that I didn’t think would happen in my lifetime. And I’ll probably cry.

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I live in a segregated neighborhood.

That may seem like an odd way to describe my corner of our racially and socio-economically diverse inner-ring suburb, but the truth is I live in the midst of a lot of folks who share my values and think like me. We chose this city because we wanted fellow citizen activists (as annoying as that can be at times), as well as good schools, a walkable neighborhood, and easy access to everything a major city has to offer.

A primitive human instinct to stay safe by sticking close to your tribe, also known as Self-Segregation.

But when I wake up everyday to alarming news that makes me wonder out loud – “Who are these people? How can they believe these things?” – I know I need to “Check my Bubble.”

We all have a Social & Cultural Bubble despite access to excessive amounts of information. It’s pretty normal to live in a Bubble near people with similar values, where dissent is reduced or limited through social politeness. And, because the Internet makes it easy we don’t examine this “information diet” that filters out news that conflicts with our beliefs. In other words, we live in a Bubble.

In my Bubble everyone is appalled and horrified at Trump’s efforts to undermine the legitimacy of the election, incite violence and encourage vigilante behavior in his followers.

I was thinking about that Bubble as I watched the third presidential debate and read the analysis.

Recently I participated in a diversity workshop where provocative questions are used to initiate deep, honest conversation and breakdown biases. The workshop was held in a rural area with participants from a mix of demographics (age, gender, race, professional status.)

The workshop questions were opportunities for people to share personal information about themselves beyond their surface presentation and disrupt their implicit biases about others. The dilemma for most participants is how to answer without leaving yourself too vulnerable.

Sometimes its tough to remember that we make choices like these every day about how we present ourselves to the world. For some people the stakes are always high. Depending on the situation, deciding to share the invisible parts that make us the complex people that we really are can be dangerous and/or exhausting.

We humans make assumptions about people based on their looks that we then call a “first impression”. In about a tenth of a second we form an opinion about a person based on the color of skin, (assumed) gender, class (clothing), and work ethic (their weight). And then we add to that impression with additional information. When people are selecting information to reinforce their assumptions (positive or negative) that’s bias.

The diversity workshop was an effort to help folks see and unravel their assumptions. After last nights debate (and the last three months!), I couldn’t help thinking we need similar workshops to bring people together around politics. That would mean Trump, Stein, Johnson, and Clinton supporters openly, respectfully, sharing information in an effort to disrupt bias.

Because we cannot afford to dismiss Trump supporters or third-party supporters as Wackos.

I agree that some people hold deplorable opinions and twisted world views, but the majority don’t. As I have written in this blog before, I know people who support all four of the candidates, but I don’t always understand why.

We owe it to ourselves to try and understand what is driving people to the level of fear and disillusionment that allows them to believe in large scale plots and conspiracies, dismiss evidence, and embrace a world view disconnected from accepted reality.

We are the sum of our parts, visible and invisible. When we choose to reveal our invisible parts that’s when it gets interesting. When we struggle to understand others invisible parts, that’s when it gets real.

Clinton’s closing statement at the third presidential debate,  “I’m reaching out to all Americans — Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. Because we need everybody to help make our country what it should be”, reminds us that the USA is what it is because “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

I’m with Her.

Jones Hand Sewing Machine Parts Diagram
Jones Hand Sewing Machine Parts Diagram

Donald Trump is the best thing to happen to American women since Seneca Falls.

In my work I get to facilitate conversations about implicit bias (racism, sexism, classism etc.) usually by using logic and humor, evidence and anecdote. These are calm, introspective, respectful conversations designed to be a thought-provoking means for people to understand that implicit bias is a human problem.

But now, with Donald Trump saying, or being accused of, something biased nearly every time he opens his mouth, the reality of assorted -isms is front and center in the public dialogue. No more pussyfooting around! Women are speaking up every day about the appalling, pervasive reality of sexist behavior and the weight of the evidence is to great too ignore.  And I am grateful.

The reason I named my blog Amandatoryrant was because once upon a time I facilitated conversations and trainings around bias that were mandated. This often seems like a good solution to the folks mandating, but its a tough go for those who don’t want to be in the room.

Like with many change initiatives, the first hurdle with bias is understanding there is in fact a problem. The second much larger hurdle is understanding that you – yes you – are part of the problem. This is a dangerous and fertile ground. Rich bottom land ripe for planting new ideas that is studded with landmines.

No one wants to be accused of being racist, sexist or think of themselves as guilty of any other bias. We are all good people.

However, thanks to Trumps unrelenting sexism and the growing evidence presented by women he has groped and assaulted, we are experiencing a crack in the complacency that normally surrounds these “minor incidents.”

The fact that millions of women are now sharing stories of how their bodies are touched against their will is making it easier to talk about everyday, casual sexism. This isn’t “he said, she said” this is millions of assertions of “that is my experience”, which makes it harder for reasonable people to ignore or discount.

So thanks Trump, for showing the world that sexism is really, really a thing. And its huge. It’s a disaster.

Once we accept that bias (implicit and overt) is a thing – and that we can do something to change it – the final hurdle is deciding what that something will be.

This is where I come in. I spend a great deal of my life (professional and personal) talking, training, and writing about bias in one form or another.

Coaching individual women (and some men) to surf, survive, and thrive inside systems where implicit bias burdens them with invisible obstacles. Coaching individual men (and some women) to examine and change systems where implicit bias has taken root.  And helping groups, large and small, to articulate their ideals and wrestle with how to live by them every day.

Our country is on track to [continue to] experience sexist, racist, xenophobic backlash for the next 8 – 12 years. And, thanks to Trump ripping the band-aid off our complacency, we are also on track to make progress around issues that will no longer remain under the surface.

I suspect that I will have a lot more folks knocking on my door looking for a consultant to help reduce bias and improve their culture of inclusion.

Call me. I can’t wait to get started.

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I survived watching the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

The only moment that made me scream “What!?!” at the top of my lungs  came during post-debate analysis when syndicated columnist Mark Shields said that “Clinton is not likeable” and that she didn’t show herself to be the “kind of person you want in the carpool or on the PTA.”

Suddenly I felt like I was 13 years old again struggling to contain tears of frustration as I attempt to argue with my father and older brother that women are as good as men and deserve equal rights.

I didn’t have the language in 1978 to articulate the documented societal, cultural, and institutional obstacles that get in the way of women advancing and thriving in their careers.  What I did have all those years ago was a bone deep knowledge that I and other women were not getting a fair shake because of our gender.

By benefit of the world I grew up in and the family that raised me I learned quite a few lessons early:

  • Tears make you weak and only the strong get respect.
  • Strong women are angry and no one likes an angry woman.
  • If you don’t smile all the time you are angry.
  • Its OK for men to interrupt you and it’s rude of you to interrupt others.
  • You really don’t know what you are talking about if a mans opinion differs from yours.
  • If you complain about sexist behavior you are using gender as an excuse.
  • You only see sexist behavior because you are looking for it.
  • Other women may support your position, or tell you to stop making waves.

Watching the presidential debate last night, it appears that almost nothing has changed since I was 13.

One of the most accomplished women alive was accorded zero respect by an inexperienced man who blustered and shouted instead of answering questions. The post-debate judgement of performance was equally bizarre:

  • Her calm, composed presence was called “an icy stare.”
  • Her composed, thoughtful answers were called “a timid, hesitant start.”
  • Her thoughtful, detailed plans were called “an inability to give a short answer.”

Otherwise known as she can’t win for losing.

I recently had the pleasure of delivering a keynote at a women’s conference where I very lightly touched on some of the ways that gender bias can get in the way of women advancing and thriving in their careers. I say lightly because not everyone (women included) believes that gender bias is a thing.

Joan Williams does a brilliant job detailing four kinds of bias in her book “What Works for Women at Work.” Williams calls the balance women must strike between “likeability” and authority, “The Tightrope”.  This “Tightrope” is one Hillary Clinton has been walking for so long that she can probably now do blind-folded pirouettes at 10,000 feet.

But it doesn’t matter if her “likability” isn’t based on whether she’s the kind of woman you want sitting next to you at an important meeting, but whether she’s the kind of woman you want to rely on for your car pool.

While this sexist comment by Shields was meant to show how unlikable Hillary Clinton is I must say that if I had to choose someone to rely on to pick up my kid after practice I would stake my daughter’s LIFE on Clinton being there every time. Early. With freakin snacks.

In fact, I believe she is qualified for – and has excelled at – every position she has ever taken on from senior class president to senator to secretary of state.

So yes, Mark Shields, I am comfortable with Hillary Clinton running the PTA, the car pool and the United States of America.

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I have been increasingly silent on my blog during the last year.

Partially because I had a mistaken idea that I should only write about topics related to personal growth, coaching, and professional development.

And partially as self-protection from the astonishing levels of anger, hatred and viciousness we have witnessed in our society over the last year. There was so much written, spoken, shared and re-posted that I felt my voice didn’t matter in the white noise.

I changed my mind. Every voice matters.

Watch & listen to a message for today from 20 years ago.

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I was forced to buy a new wallet recently. I don’t invest much in accessories like wallets, handbags, phone cases and such so this doesn’t happen very often. I think this might be the fourth or fifth wallet I’ve owned in my lifetime. All my previous wallets has slots for school photos. Which I sort of miss.

Cleaning out the old wallet, which had considerably more nooks and crannies than the new one, I found something my mother gave me back in 1991.

My mom was a religious person, a person of faith, and a big believer in miracles. Back in 1991, the year before my dad was diagnosed with the cancer that would kill him a year later, I was in a place of flux.

When I was laid off from the theatre I worked at for years, I took a job as a temp for a publisher. Within months I was hired full-time and was making more money than I had ever made  in theatre. I think the salary was a whopping $18,000.

Seeing as this was thousands of dollars more than I earned in theatre, I actually paid down my looming debt and felt “rich”. I had savings for the first time in my life and still managed to act and direct  at night. The stamina of youth + coffee.

In 1991 I was weighing the decision to return to a theatre position full-time, which I ultimately did. Sitting at my moms kitchen table obviously moaning about money worries and trying to decide between what was safe and what was authentic, she pulled out a piece of paper and wrote me a note.

It said “Pay to the Order of Amanda T. Shaffer. Paid in Full. The Law of Abundance.” She dated it, had me sign it and told me to carry it in my wallet always.

I don’t know if her talisman worked but the next year I met Mr. Man who became my friend and husband, and the years following the abundance flowed – I founded a theatre, bought a house, had a child and continued to find interesting, fulfilling work in and out of theatre for the next 25 years.

There were many dips in the road, losing my dad in 1992, and then mom in 2001. Followed by the death of my brother, my husbands grandparents, and my father-in-law. But the abundance and richness of my life has never dimmed. And I am grateful.

Sunday was the anniversary of my mom’s death and I am still vaguely surprised by it every year. So I was happy to find the tattered paper talisman she gifted me with – dated on what would be my daughters birthday eight years in the future – and put it in my new wallet.

Where I will carry it always.

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I took a 30 minute walk outside today.

A lunch time walk may not sound like big deal but I have an unhealthy habit of forgetting to get up from my desk for 5 hours at a time. I always have the best of intentions to take a break and walk outside in the middle of the day. And I have never done it until today.

Self-care, those intentional choices we make to nurture our bodies, minds and spirit, are the first items on the chopping block when time gets tight and the to-do list gets long. For me the first thing to go is “taking a break”, followed by writing, “seeing friends”, eating “healthy food”, and ultimately exercise. This past year I didn’t even plant any annuals because I knew I would have to water them. It was a bleak garden year.

Many days I am hanging on to my exercise class by my fingernails. I work out distracted and unfocused, with headaches and colds, coming in late and leaving early to accommodate clients, trying to fit in at least two classes a week.

But that’s not really self-care. That’s just enough fuel to keep going.

Last year my coaching business nearly doubled, I tried unsuccessfully to bring on associates, and was forced to both raise my rates and turn down clients to make it all work. Sounds like a success and feels like a disaster.  And almost all self-care disappeared.

I decided this morning that I would put a walk on my calendar every day and set an alarm just like a meeting. I don’t miss meetings and I have a Pavlovian relationship with my iPhone calendar alarms, so I booked five walks. I still have too much work, and am finishing (or starting) things right up against the deadline, but truly another 30 minutes is not going to make that big of a difference.

I am also planning to scheduled one writing hour per week.

This is the simple technique I start my clients on when they are overwhelmed and need to make change: Make it small. Make it concrete on your calendar. Make it repetitive.

But I forget to take my own medicine sometimes.

I used to be dismissive of the concept of self-care when I was younger because it sounded so basic – eat decent food, sleep, see friends & family, get some exercise. Either I didn’t understand the concept of overwork at the time, or I maybe I bounced back quicker, whatever the case I am currently quite respectful of the concept and need for self-care.

Now that I’ve learned my lesson, I plan to spend more time being intentional in scheduling my breaks, my visits with friends, and my “purpose & joy” to quote a wise friend.

Snowdrops I discovered on my walk today.

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Snowdrops, February 1, 2016

 

I Fit the description…

This is what I wore to work today. On my way to get a burrito before work, I was detained by the police. I noticed the police car in the public lot behind Centre Street.  As I was walking away from my car, the cruiser followed me.  I walked down Centre Street and was about…

http://artandeverythingafter.com/i-fit-the-description/

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I discovered years ago that when my thoughts are racing too fast, and for too long, that I lose complete touch with my body. I become a head in a jar.

This is different from the “brain in a vat” of Matrix movie fame. Which, on some days, seems really pleasant – float in your isolation tank while the imaginary world takes care of itself through the computer.

What I’m talking about is my habit of living from the neck up. It creeps up over the course of months until I’m caught off guard by some physical reminder that I have a body. Usually in the form a crick in my neck or a swollen knee.

My go to method for finding my whole self again is to get a massage.  In some fantasy one-percenter future I would indulge in a massage once a week rather than once a quarter.

Over the twenty years that I’ve enjoyed massages I have only used a male masseuse twice. They made me uncomfortable and I’ve skipped getting a massage if only a men were available. I felt like a male masseuse couldn’t really understand how to work on me and they wouldn’t have that Zen, I-am-communicating-with-your-body-through-my-hands thing that I look for in a good masseuse

A couple weeks ago I couldn’t take it anymore and needed someone to put my trapezius back in order and rub all that cortisol out of me. My usual person was not available so I ended up agreeing to use the man.

All the reservations I just mentioned were compounded when I met him at the salon and discovered he was very big and powerful looking. Oh no! I thought, not the dreaded “sports massage” that’s “good for you” and leaves you sore rather than relaxed.

Fortunately for me, what I experienced instead was the massage I have been dreaming of since the woman I preferred ran off to Bali ten years ago. (Part of the salon name is “Dream Spa” so its fitting.) Carlos’ hands managed to put my head and body back together and I’m grateful I changed my mind and tried him.

And that’s how bias works my friends. It’s as simple as that. Preconceived notions, possibly from limited experience, left un-examined, and used for decision making. Happens in everything from casual interactions to business decisions every day.

So what’s the answer? For me, its reflecting on choices and calling myself out when I notice I’m operating from bias.

And also being an ally in situations where bias might be present. Sometimes being an ally is complicated because I’m not “speaking from a place of cultural authority”, but, I hang in there and try to be appropriate rather than appropriating. The reality is we can’t can make progress reducing bias if only those who experience it are considered capable of countering it. In some circles that’s still a standard position.

I know I can’t know the reality of lived oppression, but I feel – perhaps incorrectly – that I can still stand up, say it exists, and fight to change it. And of course admit when I’m wrong. Going a little deeper than just calling #WhitePriviledge or #FirstWorldProblems.

The upside of this small personal revelation is I now have a fabulous new masseuse I can go to. Who works on Sundays!

May he never quit the salon.

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A New York Times opinion piece about work/life balance (“A Toxic Work World“) is making the rounds and stirring up a storm of comments. The author points out, among other things, that the culture of  overwork is not a gender issue but a work issue where equity will mean we value care giving.

We have a definite bias towards exhaustion and “110%” as proof of value in our culture. Its a system that benefits men overwhelmingly as Joan Williams brilliantly explains in her book and in nice bite sized video bits.

My reaction to the piece was colored by a conversation I had a few days before it came out. I was in a salon getting a service and chatting as you do about kids and current events and the nice for a change weather.

The woman waiting on me has a daughter a year older than mine and is deep in the college selection process that we’ve been nibbling around the edges. She was telling me her daughter wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer and was working with the guidance counselor trying to find the right school in their price range.

But she was convincing her daughter to drop law because no one can have a family with that kind of lifestyle. If she goes into the health field she doesn’t have to be a doctor, she can be something where she can go part time for a while when she has kids.

I understand that every family is different. I understand that we all have our own values.

But I don’t understand why a 17 year old girl should make life choices today to accommodate possible future children that she may or may not want or need to stay home while they’re young.

I tried a few examples, anecdotes and facts to shake the mothers view. But she would not be persuaded her daughter could have it all. She knew better.

Our culture limits us and we limit ourselves.

Lets try not to limit our children.

“Waiting your time, dreaming of a better life
Waiting your time, you’re more than just a wife
You don’t want to do what your mother has done…”

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Feeling a bit like a tumbleweed tossed around by life at the moment. Family and friends, a wedding and a funeral, rituals and milestones that mark time.

Being equal parts over committed (my own fault), and under participating (+ feeling guilty), makes it hard to stay present.

The other day I said to a frantic faculty member “surely you can gift yourself 30 minutes to start writing your white paper. Set a timer.” She took the suggestion and churned out a page of writing.

So today I gift myself with 10 minutes to write a blog post.

Today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and it always makes me think of Norman, my husbands grandfather. I only knew him for about 6 years before he died, but very much loved him and his forceful personality. A raconteur of the first water, equally kind and caustic, friendly and demanding, I was new enough to the family to enjoy his flaws and find his quirks charming.

My husband and I went to dinner with Norman at least once a month and then more often after his wife died. Eventually I started cooking meals for him at our house or his. I made him meat dishes that he loved, even though we are vegetarian and I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing, and of course sweets.

My favorite was the Crowned Apple Cake that I made him for Rosh Hashanah. It looked so dramatic and was so dense with apples, it made for a sweet New Year and a happy memory.

L’shanah tovah to those who celebrate.

10 minutes is up! (not my cake below, but same recipe)

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I wish I had a truth mirror. I would hold it up in front of my clients so they could magically see what others see.

One of my biggest frustrations with my (usually women) clients is their inability to recognize and own their unique talents, abilities, skills and knowledge. I witness time and again the automatic downgrading of skills because if its easy for them then it must not be that hard, right?

Some of this is modesty and style, some of it is living in a culture that treats women who own their accomplishments as “pushy” and “braggy.” And I think a massive chunk is related to the fact that we spend so, so much time reflecting on what is wrong with us that we never get around to what is right.

Ask someone to list all the ways they need to improve, and the list is long.

Ask someone to list all the ways they excel and often its … crickets.

We do this in our personal lives when we name bits and pieces we like (“I have good hair and pretty hands”), but don’t find much to recommend about the whole package. I’m guilty of this one myself, see above hair and hands.

It’s hard to listen to people underrate and diminish their skills, especially skills that I don’t have and couldn’t begin to master. BUT its totally satisfying to witness them finally understanding and owning their value.

The frustration I struggle with every time is that I want them to get there more quickly. I know I can’t hurry anyone’s learning, and the magic truth mirror only works if you are ready look in it, but a girl can dream.

“Mirror, Mirror in my hand,

Who’s got the maddest skills in the land?”

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