My family has been isolating here in DC since March 12th.

I’m grateful that we’re healthy and able to live our social-distance lives without some of the more serious stresses being experienced by the poor, the disenfranchised, the service workers, the health care workers and the first responders.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember it’s not a competition. We can all put our suffering in perspective on a scale from near death to absolute luxury, but it doesn’t change the fact that each of us are suffering.

Yeah, yeah, first world problems and all that, but shaming folks for feeling lousy about their own personal circumstances doesn’t actually DO anything productive. Except possibly let the shame-er (is that a word?) do a little virtue signaling and feel self-righteous about their social awareness.

In my privileged, bougie life during Week 1 of isolation I did the following:

  • Stared at the bedroom ceiling in paralyzing grief. I do not recommend this as an alternative to sleeping.
    • The grief was and is a combination of the empathy over the struggles my clients are experiencing, my own loss of clients & income from March – September 2020, and the anticipation of what this world event means to a whole generation of young people.
  • Had 1-2 glasses of wine every single evening while telling my husband this is an absolutely acceptable coping mechanism for both of us.
  • Took 4 naps. This may not be a big deal for others but I haven’t napped since the first trimester I was pregnant with my daughter 22 years ago. Since I am not pregnant I’m going to file the napping under depressed escapism.
  • Spent 68% more time reading news on my devices (yes multiple) according to those highly annoying reports they give you each week.
  • Read 7 magazines on the library app Libby.
  • Took a long walk every day with the kid to notice flowers, cute dogs, and interesting architecture.
  • Purchased Fellowship of the Ring movie (extended version)
  • Read good two novels, abandoned one mediocre book.
  • Took turns sharing my office with my husband so we could each make phone & video calls in privacy.
  • Baked bread.

Week 2 had a bit more structure

  • Decided to give away coaching to anyone who needs it (pay-what-you-can). Because being of use to others is more important than money right now.
  • Stared at the computer screen for several scheduled hours a day NOT writing the book I’m working on.
  • Flipped through 3 cooking magazines on the library app.
  • Reached out to clients, family & friends to see how everyone is doing.
  • Read one good novel and abandoned 4 more that the library recommended but were too uninspired to continue.
  • Baked some more bread.
  • Started to do yoga in the mornings with the kid (who is herself adapting to college online)
  • Downloaded three self-help books from the library and started plotting out my much needed self-improvement.
  • Purchased Two Towers movie (extended version)
  • Removed my essentials and gave my husband my office as he is on video calls nonstop at this point. The dining room table is now work-from-home central for both me and the college student.
  • Started converting my professional development workshops and trainings to Webinar format. I’ve resisted this for years for a variety of reasons but that’s another blog post.
  • Scheduled some video appointments with my therapist (Yay me!)

Now we are heading into Week 3 and I am setting my intentions in the hope it will keep me accountable. In week 3 I will:

  1. Write at least 250 words a day. A modest and therefore achievable goal.
  2. Bake the biscotti I have been craving and not judge myself for eating it with my mid-morning coffee.
  3. Create a daily schedule EVERY DAY! and then use it. Several days in the last few weeks are a complete blur which is disturbing.
  4. Do 30 minutes of yoga or other exercise.
  5. Finish the really good book I discovered so I can start the next book in the series.
  6. Resist the urge to check NYT, WaPo, BBC, Reuters, Twitter and FB every hour. Yes resist is a loose goal because I don’t know what my tolerance for this is yet.
  7. Practice using loving kindness when the urge to judge or give in to outrage overwhelms me. Especially when indulging in #5 above.
  8. Find one good thing every day to reflect on before I (hopefully) sleep.
  9. Take melatonin every night because the majority opinion is that its not addictive and what can possibly be bad about being addicted to getting full 6 hours of sleep anyway?
  10. And finally, – maybe I should make this #1? – I will forgive myself if I do not execute on any of my intentions for Week 3.

I hope you and yours are healthy and treating yourself with gentleness.

Hit me up if you want a video chat or need some coaching. That is a serious offer.

an isolated beach in Spain
A beautiful, isolated beach visited last year

 

 

 

 

I just got back from a week long excursion to catch up on my Continuing Education Units (CEU) for my Coaching practice.

A lot of professions require Continuing Ed so you stay current with ethics and techniques, and often its viewed as a hassle so people wait to the very last minute. I had an attorney friend who every year crammed all her credits into day long online classes in December to make the deadline.

I could do my CEU’s online but it had been several years since I had an opportunity to get back to my Gestalt roots so I signed up for two different sessions. Because my little sister lives 10 minutes down the road from the institute this plan had the added bonus of hanging out with family in the evenings.

Those five days I spent immersed in Gestalt process really felt luxurious like a reward or treat.

Don’t get me wrong our highly skilled instructors pushed and pulled and modeled and it was completely exhausting.

But I had a chance to observe other coaches and facilitators and appreciate methods and  possibilities that wouldn’t have occurred to me. I had space and time to practice techniques that I’m good, at and re-learn those skills that have gotten a bit rusty.

I know CEU’s are in service to the client and regulating the profession, but this was more like I had checked into a Spa where all I had to think about was myself. Turning my phone off for 4 hours at a time, trying to capture insights in my journal, reevaluating what I thought I knew about myself as a coach and facilitator.

When I was describing my enjoyment to a colleague as a treat that I gave myself, it reminded me of a meme my daughter shared.

I hope all your CEU’s for the coming year are Spa CEU’s.

Amanda can have a treat

A post on the Facebook group Pantsuit Nation made me cry this morning. It was by a young woman of color working as a Staff Assistant in the U.S. Congress sharing her exhaustion and despair.

I stopped writing about politics on this blog six months ago for a couple of reasons.

First, the sheer volume of blog worthy political activity seemed to quadruple over night. The constant churning of the news cycle meant I was still ruminating the implications of some development when the next one dropped center stage. I could never make it as a journalist with a deadline. Props to those who do!

The second reason I stopped writing about politics was my kid. My strong, compassionate, deeply political, social activist daughter teeters on the edge of an existential crisis because she sees the potential for disaster in her future.

Current events now make previously far-fetched outcomes frighteningly possible in the USA. Things like authoritarianism, populism, decreased civil rights for women and minorities. (Frankly I don’t understand how anyone watches “The Handmaid’s Tale.”) And always the spectre of nuclear war.

As US politics is currently dominated by white men of the generation prior to mine, my daughter has a very real fear that she may not have a chance to do the work in the world that she is driven to do.

The woman in the post this morning wrote, “But I can’t leave this [work] … To leave would be disrespectful to the communities that supported my journey into politics.”

Yes, please stay. We need you. Each generation relies on the next to fix our mistakes.

As I cried tI added some words of encouragement to the 7,000+ comments already on her post. Maybe the outpouring of love and caring from strangers will help.

I think what all the young people dedicated to public service – this woman, my daughter – need right now are trail maintainers not trailblazers. People dedicated to chopping brush, moving aside storm-tossed obstacles, and placing fresh markers so they can see the path.

Ranting in outrage about injustices, or analyzing political maneuvers, feels to me like creating obstacles rather than removing them, so no political rants from me for the foreseeable future.

There is other work to do.

 

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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I recently saw a picture of Cinderella’s slipper with the caption “If Cinderella went back to pick up her shoe she wouldn’t have become a princess.”

Whatever your feelings about that ashy inspiration, I personally find it useful to occasionally look back and see what if anything I am learning. So 10 lessons in no order.

1. I got no chops.

I auditioned for a staged reading that sounded interesting and realized that whatever limited acting talent I once possessed has rusted to a point beyond embarrassment. I got nuthin but a decent reading voice anymore. I need to find an acting class and a patient director in 2015. Followed by a completely desperate community theatre.

2. Dancing makes me happy.

I always knew this but sometimes I forget to do it. Dancing by yourself, while slightly less enjoyable than grabbing a friend or stranger, is at least not the same slippery slope as smoking weed or drinking by yourself. Jazzercize – even though I can’t follow half the choreography – helps take the edge off the need to move.

If I were to resolve something it would be throw more house parties in 2015 so I can dance to loud music with other sweaty, happy people.

3. Talk less, listen more (in meetings and other difficult situations)

Whenever I remembered to do this I was always happier walking out the door afterward.

4. Not everything broken can be fixed.

‘Nuff said.

5. Everyone’s a little bit racist. (Including me.)

The first time I heard that song in Avenue Q I laughed so hard I could barely hear all the lyrics. Too bad it doesn’t get sung by school choirs like that annoying song from Rent.

If it was, if this song was considered appropriate content for school children and their parents, maybe we could start these desperately necessary conversations about institutional bias and white (and male) privilege from a different place. Just a suggestion.

6. Just because I can’t deliver what a client wants doesn’t mean I’ve failed.

Multiple clients this past year engaged me as a coach to help them create a road map for a new career or a new direction. The problem is you have to know where you want to go before you can decide how to get there. Sometimes when clients don’t know what they want, they think coaching doesn’t work. Unfortunately, I didn’t get issued a magic wand when I completed my training so I can’t make (vague and often unarticulated) wishes come true.

For the first time acknowledging my limitations feels like strength rather than weakness.

7. I am an optimist trapped in a pessimist body.

My daughter says people see me as “proper” (isn’t she polite?), I also get called “serious” and “intellectual” all the time. With a little push some folks might be persuaded to talk about my “Bitch Face.”

It’s obvious I’m not a smiley person, but it may be less obvious that I am a deeply hopeful person.  I really do think that individuals make a difference agitating for change in their communities and in the world. I think the world is full of good people doing the best they can. I believe I have a responsibility to stand up, speak up, lend a hand, hold a hand.

My hope for change and my committment to action just doesn’t show up on my face, or on my T-shirt. Its just how it is. And, once again, I resolve to smile more to help my face reflect my heart.

8. People change.

I am not  the same person I was twenty years ago and neither is my little sister. We may not have had much in common through the years but a conscious choice to see if we like each other now has led to a new circle of family that hasn’t existed for a long time. And I am grateful.

9. I am a writer.

This is a silly thing to have to learn but I have resisted ever referring to myself as a writer, no matter what I write or publish.

However, I need to write. I need people to read my writing. I want to spend more time writing in 2015  and more time acknowledging that writing is part of who I am.

10. Everyday is a second chance.

It’s all a do-over. Right here, right now. Life is what we make of it so live it up.

 

I know I learned more along the way but we have a party to go to where I hope there will be dancing.

Best wishes to all for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015!

brain

While this title might suggest a lengthy post about the evils of drinking well liquor, it is instead an acknowledgment how easily riffs on the venerable Meyers-Briggs Type Indicators amuse me. It’s a weakness I know.

MBTI Types in a horror movie:
ISTJ: The one in denial that there’s actually a killer
ISFJ: The one who calls out “Who’s there?” as if the killer will answer
ESTJ: The one who tries to tell everyone else what to do
ESFJ: The one who screams at everything
ISTP: The one who finds a really good hiding place
ISFP: The one who dies first
ESTP: The one wondering around without a flashlight
ESFP: The one who tries to hook up with the killer
INFJ: The one who knows what’s going on but no one will listen to them
ENFJ: The one who says “It’ll be ok” even though they don’t believe it
INFP: The one who sacrifices themselves
ENFP: The one who figures out who the killer is a little too late
INTJ: The one who everyone thinks is the killer
ENTJ: The one who tries to fight back but ends up dead
INTP: The one who created the monster
ENTP: The one who makes it until the end

For what its worth I’ve been typed as ENTJ  or INTJ depending on the day. The chart below is also an amusing filter for viewing the evolution of Disney brand female empowerment (not feminism.)

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I am very bad at relaxing.

That sentence is a good indicator of my poor showing at R&R. I always assume there must be some way to excel at activities and I have yet to acquire the skills around relaxing. Apparently I am a small doses person. A little work, a little rest, a little more work. A little more work…

Sometimes I indulge in a lazy day at home (no matter what my husband says) and just lay around for hours reading on the couch. It’s still a lazy day in my mind if I get up occasionally to throw in some laundry or straighten the linen closet.

I have long dreamed of having a sabbatical from work. Six months off where I might fuss around the house and get all those little jobs done that nudge the back of my mind when I want to  relax. The photo albums that need finishing and the basement that needs cleaning, the caulking, patching and painting that seems to lurk in every room in the house.

Maybe I have an eyesight problem – I always see what needs doing rather than what’s done.

For now I am practicing relaxing.  I am viewing it as a form of personal maintenance like working out and haircuts. And if it’s a “practice” I don’t have to be good at it do I?

wrenches

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I have many fond childhood memories of Wallace Lake.

 

 

When I stepped away from actively doing any theater I also stopped attending the kinds of plays I had liked to perform in and direct. I had a hard time listening to people talk about “the craft” and I even stopped reading very much about new work, especially experimental or political theater.

I had good reasons for stepping away from 20 years of work.

Now I haven’t directed for 10 years, and I haven’t performed for more than 12. I officially no longer have the chops to do either. I realized I missed acting three or four years ago when I was casually noticing auditions, and actively reviewing the seasons of all the local theaters to see if there was anything so compelling that I might…

I have a list floating around in my head of roles I’ve always wanted to perform in that I think I am old enough (even if no longer skilled enough) to handle:

  • Dan in Aunt Dan & Lemon
  • Elinor in The Lion in Winter
  • Aurelia in Madwoman of Chaillot
  • Masha in Three Sisters

And plays that make me want to direct again:

  • Bent – I think its past time this play makes a comeback
  • Waiting for Godot
  • Everyman
  • Chimerica or Tinderbox
  • Rapture, Blister, Burn
  • What the Butler Saw
  • Adapting “This is 40” for the stage…

One thing that occurred to me as I was mulling what is making me consider trying to inch my way into theater again is the realization that I never played an ingenue. Not even when I was technically the correct age. There are two reasons for this: First, I have a strong presence and didn’t learn for many years how to temper it, and second, the ingenue never seemed as interesting to me as other characters.

I still am not sure why I am thinking about theater, or performing, or what I would even do to make motions in that direction. Nor have I completely resolved the question “was I ever any good anyway”?, that lurks around the edges.

Questions without answers, blog posts without a point – they go hand in hand don’t they?

IngenueCover_Apr1965_

 

Been thinking a lot about obligations lately. What you owe to colleagues, family, friends, society – why and how the calculations are made. Fortunately, when I get caught in a very sticky problem I have a hierarchy of defense mechanisms that kick in:

  • Invariably I start by talking it out. Haven’t met a problem yet I couldn’t talk to death.
  • If/when rigor mortis fails to set in (some problems are zombies),  I start researching. Surely someone somewhere has done a meta analysis of all the research and possible solutions. Which I can then adopt.
  • If the problem refuses to yield to the sheer weight of expert opinion, I then try to translate it into a formula in the hopes of discovering rules. The formula stage is usually evidence that the problem is either long-term or I truly have no clue.

Currently, I’m working on a formula for “Obligations”.

Everyone has some version of the “me & mine” mindset that would kick in during times of natural disaster, revolution, or Armageddon, but other assorted obligations shift and change over time.

Some of these obligations are steel cables from the past, subterranean and invisible until some event pulls them taut. And that is the formula I can’t quite work out. How much does the past obligate me in the present?

I have managed to climb very far from where I started in life. Some family & friends who were there with me have not. Calls from that past come more infrequently now but the steel cable of obligation reels me in so quickly its staggering.

Some twisted sense of survivors guilt, plus my mother’s catholic (guilt) training, makes saying no almost an impossibility.  Someone else always has it worse. Your success means you share and help.

Thankfully my long-suffering and understanding husband has a more realistic perspective that keeps me from going into debt to float people as I have in the past.

It’s hard to be on either end of that cable.

I usually have an image  or song at the end of my posts, and I was tempted to put a photo of Richard Harris from his famous scene in “A Man Called Horse”, but that’s a bit dark even for me. So instead I leave you with 3 minutes and 30 seconds bittersweet by an under appreciated and brilliant artist you should check out if this is the only song of his you are familiar with.

bittersweetpic2
As bittersweet vines grow, they will tend to strangle whatever they are climbing on. It is extremely aggressive, often growing sixty feet or more in a single season, and spreads rapidly from any bit of root or stem severed from the plant so removal by pulling is nearly impossible. All parts of the plant are considered poisonous.

 

Every once in a while when I am coaching a client I get to witness a moment when they realize possibility. An almost audible “click” as thoughts crystallize and the top comes off the box.

Most people who come to me for coaching are looking for some way out of their box. That box, which keeps them from change or risk or hope, is usually constructed out of fear.

Usually there is a density to fear that prevents people from seeing possibility, potential or any way forward. It clouds the path, minimizes the value of the goal and maximizes the potential danger. Fear can seep in and color all rational thinking. What I’ve discovered, personally and professionally, is that many of us need help to see past the fear. Friends, spouses, partners can help but sometimes you really need a coach.

My coaching – poking with questions and nudging with insights and reframing the words to clarify meaning – sometimes works as a lever under the lid of a client’s box. I’m always upfront with clients that I can’t and don’t actually apply any pressure to their lever, but I’m happy to stand next to them and hand them the tool.

When it works it’s a beautiful thing.

I selfishly enjoy these moments like I accomplished something when the client has actually done all the work. It’s why I coach. Its addictive. When someone finally gets the lid off that jar they keep themselves in (it was a jar not a box btw) they discover, like Pandora, that what’s inside that box is hope.

All in all a good day.

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I’m not a terribly sports oriented person. I don’t like watching professional sports other than tennis, and always preferred pick up games to organized teams. I’m equal parts overly competitive with games and bored by watching rather than playing.

I know just enough about professional sports to not embarrass myself in casual conversation, but not enough to actually care who wins or loses. Yet even with my non-sport attitude I could see the tremendous utility of the referee hand signals a clever student created for the American Philosophical Association. Well done Landon Schurtz, PhD. Wherever you ended up teaching adjunct classes, the students are lucky to have you.

I can see a potential for Roberts Rules of Order hand signals to be used during congressional debates so folks watching can follow the action. An Official Congressional Referee armed with the ability to call penalties for poor logic might raise the level of debate. At minimum seeing yellow flags hit the floor would be entertaining.

Unfortunately, they would spend the next hundred years debating what offense of logic in debate would red card a senator or representative. And yes, I do know that I just mixed football and football.

signals21

Time off means different things to different people. For me, stretches of “free time”, also known as “Holidays”, usually mean “Project Management”. Winter break projects usually involve paint, furniture rearranging and closet cleaning. Spring break is generally a major area like the attic of basement, or weather permitting, outdoor work. When you own a house there is always something that needs doing and packing it into weekends doesn’t quite cover the punch list.

The slop sink that I intended to replace before we moved in nine years ago still reproachfully lists and overflows. At least its on the list.

This year my time off was more of a time out.

2013 was a tough row and though I had good intentions of being productive during this break, I just powered down instead. Turned off my email, put my cell phone in my upstairs office rather than my pocket, stopped checking facebook. Even stopped posting to my blog. What I did instead was lounge around the house reading books, went out to the movies, had long, rambly conversations with my husband and daughter, and ruminated.

I don’t know about other folks but I need space and time to do any serious thinking. I know and rely on my capacity for fast processing, organization and quick decision-making every day. These are skills I use like whipping up a weeknight dinner without a recipe. But ruminating is more like bread baking.

Bread needs to be mixed, left to rise, kneaded into itself, divided, rested, baked, cooled and stored. A few simple steps over a good space of time. That is luxury: the time to pay attention.

My time out is almost over and I am trying to not jump the gun and feel it slip away before it’s actually gone. It’s an unfortunate habit of mine to feel bad that vacation is ending before its ended. I can’t be the only one who does this.

While it has been very useful to be quiet, I find I still have so many things I need to say, to myself, to you.

And so begins 2014.

Happy-new-year

My Dad died December 2, 1992. He was 62. He had cancer and treatments and it all seemed to happen very fast. The space of a year from diagnosis to the end. Or at least that’s how I remember it.

While my mother’s death anniversary makes me melancholy, each year the anniversary of my dads death makes me reflect on all that’s happened since he died. Big things like he never met my husband or child, and little things like he would have loved the world of gadgets we live in now.

For some reason I find myself measuring my adult life against his at a similar age. Getting married, having a child, buying and selling a house, burying my parents and brother, changing jobs, achieving  professional success – that’s where I am, where was he when he was 48?

It would have been 1978 and I would have been 13. A different world.

I don’t think I knew my father very well. I never understood what he did for a living until I was an adult (he was a systems analyst.) But then he wasn’t much for sharing personal stories from the past.

I learned more about him after my mom died and we had to sort out the house. I found he performed in plays in high school, was in the marching band, and, from his war ration books, discovered he either grew 5 inches between 1941 and 1942 or someone measured wrong.

Fragments and bits to weave into my memories.

This photo I happened across in an envelope in the attic shows my dad around age 10 or 11 with his sister Susie, and his brother Jack on the right. They look a bit grim, but maybe that’s just the posing. Although I swear that was the only expression I ever saw on my Uncle Jack’s face when I knew him.

Still when I look closely I can imagine my Dad’s grin lurking around the corner of his mouth in this photo. Or maybe that’s just my memory of a smile.

Till next year.

James, Sue and Jack Shaffer 1940?

I attended a lecture about negotiating today. Specifically about how women do or don’t negotiate and why. None of this was news to me but I always like to know about the latest research and hear the kinds of questions that get asked by the audience.

What I didn’t anticipate was the amount of time the speaker would spend on how our culture imparts gender norms, reinforces gender stereotypes and operates from a deep, pervasive, if usually unconscious, bias. I don’t know why I wasn’t prepared to hear these things yet again but they really cut into me today.

The speaker described the kind of woman who gets punished and stigmatized for her behavior – strong personality, direct communication, hard-driving – and showed a  picture of a female dog. As everyone around me laughed at this poor, bitchy woman my heart started racing. She was describing my personality, my habits, my passions as if they were unfortunate choices made to imitate a man and get ahead.

She went on to talk about the ways that women punish other women for not being “nice” and my head started to throb. Over the years I have been alternately accused of being unemotional and too emotional for the same behaviors. Always by women.

Nine out of ten days it rolls off my back, I flex my style, and carry on. Today all I could think was “when do I get to be in a room full of people like me for a change?”

Where being direct and decisive is an asset not an attack, where crying is a sign of deep feeling not weakness or manipulation, where we can stop trying to fix ourselves and fix the system. Where bringing your whole self to your work is expected, acknowledged and appreciated.

Sugar and Spice & Everything Nice is clearly not a big enough container for me. Or maybe anyone if the truth were told.  Unfortunately, at this very moment I can’t imagine a time when “being nice” isn’t how a woman is judged.

Maybe tomorrow.

Logo-Sugar-and-Spice-Sept-2011

I know the Pick-A Little song from music man is really about women gossiping in a small town but it is the most precise description of what was going on in my head last night during the hours when I should have been asleep. My worry insomnia has reached a new entertaining level.

Now instead of obsessing on a single topic of regret, failure or anticipation (how’s that for past, present or future?), the pick a little ladies are dancing around in my head driving me to multi task. An activity log of what the ladies were up to last night when I should have been sleeping:

  • worrying that the hotel I was in had bed bugs (3 hours)
  • listing all the things I have to do next week and which day I should do them on (2 hours)
  • replaying an interview word-by-word to analyze exactly where and how I said the wrong thing (1.5 hours)
  • seeing how many song lyrics I know by heart from the new Michael Franti album (.5 hours)
  • doing mediation breathing while simultaneously telling myself to shut up (.5 hours)

And now it’s time to “wake up”, drink coffee and face the new day.
Listen to the Pick-A-Little song if you don’t know it.

pick+a+little%2C+talk+a+little