Raise your hand if you’ve ever been called “bossy”. Or “intimidating”.

Or how about “too” anything as in “too loud”, “too angry”, “too pushy” and, my favorite, the generic insult “too much.”

What these adjectives have in common, other than the fact that they’ve all been applied to me, is that they’re often used to remind (or force) women to remember accepted gender roles/norms. Being “too much”, bossy, or aggressive deviates from social expectations of the “nice” behavior that keeps folks comfortable.

I could get lost right here in a rant about the hegemonic, heteropatriarchy reinforcing the status quo, but I have a different point to make today.

My point is that when I coach women clients, or speak with women at workshops, invariably some version of the bossy accusation comes up. The women know these phrases are used as an attempt to diminish and silence them. It’s not a mystery. But it still stings.

The only thing that comes up more often is time management, followed by self-care as a close third. Because if you had better time management skills you would have some time for self-care right?!?

I know folks are working to shift the narrative on cultural norms and we’re all supposed to aspire to being a “Bad B**ch” or a #Bossbabe, but to me that feels like reinventions of the Enjoli woman with better memes.

Real women navigating insults and slights have to decide how to own the words and then strategize about when to ignore, when to reframe, or when to modify their behavior and language to make others comfortable.

Most simply aspire to being accepted, advancing, and achieving without censure or backlash for being insufficiently nice, agreeable or modest.

In the meantime, while we wait and work for the slow, societal shift away from sexism I propose the following solution.

A dance club.

Specifically a “Bossy Women’s Dance Club”. We would only admit women who have been consistently accused of being Bossy, Pushy, Intimidating, or Angry for a minimum of 27 years. Unfortunately, this means some members of the club will be in their early 30’s.

Feminist men of all ages are welcome if a member vouches for their feminism. Men will however pay an additional entrance fee equal to the percentage of the gender pay gap represented by their race.

A dance club would promote self-care with a triple whammy of “me time” in a nurturing, space with like minded folks, fun music to dance to (exercise!) and well made cocktails.

So as I wait for my angel investor to make the Club dream a reality, I make do with … Jazzercise.

I’ve attended Jazzercise in different spots since the late 80’s when leg warmers were all but required. I currently drive 30 minutes – each way – 3 days a week in DC traffic to get to a really great studio in Arlington run by a powerhouse of positive energy named Renee.

Jazzercise lets me sweat in a room without mirrors and pretend I’m still someone who could get into a club. It lets me worship at the altar of Mr. Worldwide with zero side eye & no discussion about the inherent cognitive dissonance necessary for my enjoyment of his beats.

Jazzercise is the perfect “self-care” for my bossy, middle-aged self because there’s no such thing as “too much” on the dance floor.

If you see me at Jazzercise I hope you’ll be pushy and introduce yourself.

I’m updating my website with the help of a super talented, visually oriented friend.

An unexpected response to the necessary questions like “who is your audience?”, and “what do you want people to feel when they visit your website?”, is my deep and sincere sense of panic at answering them.

Do I tell the truth? Or do I stick with my default of describing my work with simple, practical language in as spare a way as possible. The goal is to convey a professional persona that makes people think “reliable”, “serious”, “focused”, “knowledgeable”… “Let’s hire her!” and so forth.

Along the way I completely stripped out that I am any fun or even have a personality.

I could justify this mode of communication because of the need to be professional, and blah, and blah and blah. Truthfully, it was a fear based choice.

I was afraid that if the messy bits of who I am get out again they would undermine the image I should portray to the world. Yeah I said “should.”

The reality is that its a lot of work to live up to “shoulds”: to monitor and suppress parts of yourself that you or society deem “unacceptable.” My little problem stems from years of being told that my personality was “too much”, “too big”, and “intimidating”.  That I needed to “tone it down”.

I believed the criticism and developed a serious style as a form of self-preservation and as a way to fit in where I was told I didn’t.

The serious style stuck because there is a risk to being complex and nuanced in a sound-bite world. A world where we can know and share everything instantly and no communication is immune to a well-timed screen shot.

As I am now writing descriptions to represent how and what I do when I coach & facilitate, I’m looking for ways to create a more authentic picture of myself that includes the flash and flamboyance, the irreverence and humor, that I (mostly) keep wrapped up and out of site.

The reason for the change is at this point in my career I prefer to work with people who know and accept who I am as a whole person, rather than continue to squeeze myself into a non-threatening, low-risk, “toned down” black suited shape.

Nearly everything I do when coaching and facilitating starts in a place of discomfort for participants. Its a risk to engage in personal development, or talk about race/gender/LGBTQ bias, equity and inclusion, and discomfort accompanies progress.

So with less attention on the risk of my being “too much”, I’ll work with my friend to see if we can get my website to authentically reflect who I am, how I work and what to expect when you hire me as your coach or facilitator.

With or without the black suit and serious expression.

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When I tell the story of my career path I often use the image of a mosaic.

I sometimes use the words “Once upon a time…” to help bridge the distance between the idea of “job” and “career path” for audiences who may be more comfortable with one word and not the other.

At one point in my life I had jobs in what is now called “the gig economy”, scraping by in the nonprofit world doing what I loved. To make that possible I also worked cash registers, served fast food, cleaned houses, sold advertising and hustled for free lance.

When I was a child I loved books, and school, and my teachers so I thought I would also be a teacher.

As a young adult I imagined my life would always include the arts (Once upon a time I was an actor & director…), or arts management (I spent years at Cleveland Public Theatre & then founded and ran Red Hen Productions, Feminist Theatre…), or some creativity (play and story writing…), outside of this peripatetic blog.

Then I imagined I would spend my life in the academy reading, writing, discussing and teaching philosophy. (That’s a longer story…)

I was lucky to find my true vocation (coaching & facilitating change) and now devote most of my time and energy to working with people and organizations who do good in the world.

Because I was a citizen of the USA and worked at liberal (or tolerant) organizations, I always had the freedom (within reason) to be politically active without fearing repercussions or retaliation.

Now, as someone who is self-employed, my job is my career.

That means I have thought long and hard about what repercussions my opinions and political activity will have on my ability to get work. I know that I am a small fish in a small pond, and maybe (hopefully!) I am being paranoid, but the world seems to be titling toward those who take names and make lists.

Years ago, while canvassing for domestic partner registration, I spoke with an elderly Jewish man who said “I will never vote for this! It is a terrible idea! Lists make it too easy for them to find you.”

Thinking of this Jewish man, and with conscious choice, I have decided to resume writing about my politics on this blog. It is part of the mosaic of who I am and will only become more so if we continue our drift toward despotism. (Please watch this crystal clear 10 minute explanation of despotism if you think my use of that phrase is hyperbolic.)

And, as an American citizen, I believe political engagement really is my job.

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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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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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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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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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Anyone needing an easy laugh should come to my Jazzercise class on days the instructor works in routines that require clapping. Since I have yet to master the ability move my feet and clap my hands at the same time, the result is an earnest yet ridiculous, Jerry Lewis-like flailing.

Thankfully there is never more than one of these per class.

A bigger issue than my lack of large motor skills is the way I lose my rhythm when someone in my family is out of sorts. My instinct is to sidetrack even my most important and essential activities to do whatever needs doing, or shore up whatever needs reinforcing.

Let me be clear that my husband and child are NOT standing in front of me screaming for me to be self-sacrificing. It’s my own super clever brain that tells me that I’m a selfish person (and a bad mother/wife/sister/friend/human) if I don’t put others first.

Work-life balance (ha!) is manageable if and only if (iff) nothing is breaking down, screwing up, or spinning out of control due to unforeseen circumstances.  So that means never.

I know this.

I teach this.

And under pressure I forget this as quickly as everyone else.

That’s one reason the tag line for my coaching & consulting biz is “Nothing endures but change. Be here now.” To remind myself and my clients that the only control we really have is over our own minds.

Whether you follow the Four Noble Truths, Oprah and her vision boards, a religious community, or just positive thinking – getting your head back in the present moment can help get you back in the rhythm of your life. And all its various beats.

For me, its remembering even if I can’t clap along I know the song won’t last forever.

A rhythm related side note: Once upon a time I watched My Sister Eileen (a mostly dreadful movie), and saw a very young Bob Fosse doing some of his signature moves, but because I had recently seen Cabin in The Sky I noticed that John W. Sublett (“Bubbles”) must have been an influence on Fosse. Its an amazing movie. There’s also a scene where Ethel Waters sings Taking a Chance on Love and Bill Bailey does the Moonwalk. Before Michael.

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The people who produce the William-Sonoma catalog are diabolical. Dinner plates in soft pastels, serving dishes with whimsical bunnies, botanical linens all scattered with charming alabaster eggs. It arrives in the middle of the grey, mucky winter and makes me want to whip out my Am Ex card and I don’t even set an Easter table.

The Easter catalog always reminds me of my Aunt Bev, my mother’s best friend, Aunt of my heart. For several years before she died I sent her a shipment of mini butter croissants from William-Sonoma as an Easter present. She adored the indulgence of the fancy bread, but would never buy such a thing for herself.

My mother, were she alive, I would never insult by gifting her with food. Ceramic bunnies & chicks for the table, of which she already had a profusion, would have been more welcome.

I always think of my mom and her friend – Big Alice & Bev – during Women’s History month. They weren’t feminists or activists. No accomplishments or achievements of note. They were too busy raising kids and trying to make ends meet to be political. They didn’t agitate for higher wages, they took overtime, or a part-time job, to make more money.

There are millions of women like them the world over.

Thinking about International Women’s Day, and the truth of our society requiring official reminders like these to counter pervasive inequities, I noticed how easy it is get trapped in the accomplishment loop. Celebrating people for doing the extraordinary, the unusual, the brave. Firsts. Ground-breakers. Onlys.

I decided there are some women around me who could use an “official celebration” of their achievements. So, in no particular order, you know who you are, I send my love and admiration:

  • L., with her lions heart doing the right thing because she knows its right. When I need compassion, truth and strength I know you are there.
  • S., living through some terrible, awful. You are so strong, smart and cool I can’t wait to see what you do when you are on the other side of this mess.
  • B.R., who has more energy, heart and ambition than anyone I know.  I think of you when I need to remember the world of endless possibilities.
  • J., who always reminds me what happens when you let fear rule.
  • S.C., who is compassionate and kind and an example of being brave about your dreams. I want to be more like you when I grow up.
  • A.J.A., who takes a chance on people and is willing to change. I can only follow your example.
  • M.S., who has lived long enough to do nearly everything, know nearly everyone, and still be out there having fun. I can only hope.
  • I.J., whose feminist, socialist heart is as tender as it is fierce. Who says the pursuit of social justice can’t be paved with kindness and cookies.

So many women doing what needs done – friends, neighbors, cousins, coworkers – too many name and count. Every day. I acknowledge your achievements and look to the day when we do not need International Women’s Day, Women’s History Month, or Black History month to know the sum of who we are.

Until then, have a croissant and sing along.

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Buttery goodness from William-Sonoma

As I get ever closer to my 50th birthday its seems every where I look there is a list of something I should be paying attention to like “15 Things You Should Do Before You’re 50”, or “The 9 Things Our 40’s Taught Us”, “5 Important Medical Tests for Women Over 50”.

The worst for me are the “bucket lists” that supposedly help you organize your experiences or strive to live your best life: “10 Places to Visit Before You Die”, “Inspiration to Feel Fully Alive”, or “Once in a Lifetime Meals”.

The idea of creating any kind of bucket list fills me with a panicky anxiety. I have enough tasks to take care of without a “Life” To-Do list.

So instead I decided to create a list of “Things That I Do Even Though I Fail To Get Any Better at Doing Them”. Here they are in no particular order:

1) Dance. Love to dance, poor sense of rhythm, almost total inability to follow choreography. Don’t care.

2) Shoot pool. Never have improved beyond the highly advanced stage of no longer knocking the cue ball on the floor when I attempt to break. Any shots I make are random accidents. I celebrate this.

3) Tell jokes. Again the timing thing. One liners and witty repartee are more my speed but I tell jokes that I think are funny even if no one else thinks they are when I get done with them. Unfortunately, I think I have passed this trait on to my daughter.

4) Sing. I love to sing. It makes me happy. I sing loudly. I sing off key. I don’t think ability should dictate who is allowed to sing. So there.

5) Play backgammon. Don’t know why I never have figured out the strategy for this game, but it’s still fun.

6) Take pictures. I can’t seem remember to think about composition, contrast or perspective when I take a picture. I just go all “Ohh, pretty!” Click, click, click. I wish I knew what I was doing, but that doesn’t stop me from happily snapping away at trees and clouds and my kid.

I know as soon as I hit publish I’ll probably think of half a dozen more things to add to the list, but that’s the nature of list making. I plan to do a series of lists commemorating my now five decades of winning, losing, learning, failing and all the crisp, crunchy bits scraped from the sides that make everything so flavorful.

I can start with “3 Things I’ll Never Do Again Under Any Circumstances”, and “7 People I Regret Spending So Much Time with in My 20’s”. So much potential.

Would love to know whats on your list.

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I have been writing too much for the last month to write a blog post in case that’s an acceptable excuse. No time to rant, rave and pick apart the midterm elections, misguided legislation, or the multitude of other irritations that constitute my daily life in 2014.

I am making an exception today for those of you who missed #shirtstorm because it’s never a good idea to let sleeping pigs lie.

A re-post from Dame Magazine (for women who know better)

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that wearing a busty-babe-embellished top on a media tour was a bad idea.
Written by Jess Zimmerman
This week, the European Space Agency pulled off two extraordinary feats: a historic and exciting probe landing on a comet, and an act of bad taste so extreme that it manages to show up the worst of exclusionary science culture in one ugly garment.
ESA scientist Matt Taylor, perhaps emboldened by the viral success of mohawked NASA dreamboat Bobak Ferdowsi, made the dubious choice to do his media interviews in a shirt covered in bustiered cartoon ladies. This met with moderate outrage, as a number of science journalists pointed out that going on TV bedecked with the entire contents of a Heavy Metal magazine is maybe not the way to send the message “science is a respectful and supportive field for women.” That’s where the REAL outrage started.
With their usual immunity to irony, men on the internet got very, VERY angry about the “overreaction” to Taylor’s shirt. In particular, they latched onto a tweet by science writer and editor Rose Eveleth (full disclosure: a friend of mine and an awesome person). Rose’s “overreaction” featured mild sarcasm: “No no women are toooootally welcome in our community, just ask the dude in this shirt.” The Internet Men Collective’s entirely proportional response included “kill yourself,” “quit your bitching,” the inexplicable “sometimes try sex, you’ll be better,” and a sigh-inducing “get back in the kitchen” cliché.
But the “jump off a cliff” responses were larded with a huge portion of something even more insidious: a whole battalion of helpful men sniffing that Taylor obviously didn’t MEAN to offend. He just wanted to wear his funny fancy shirt! He didn’t intend to make a point about how science and scientists view women, or the role that women play! He wasn’t even thinking at ALL about how women might feel!
Well, yes. That’s actually the problem. Taylor’s shirt sends the message that women aren’t welcome in the science community not because he was intending to send that message, but because he didn’t care.
If you asked Taylor directly, he’d probably say he was a big supporter of women in STEM. Most advisers and lab directors and tenure committees would tell you the same. Overtly misogynist throwbacks certainly exist, but one of the paltry nice things about 2014 is that by now, very few male scientists would tell a woman “you’re not welcome here.” Not to her face.
But that’s not the only way sexism works. No, sexism in science doesn’t mean advisers take their students aside and say “don’t worry, you’ll pass your thesis defense, because I’ve noticed we both have a penis.” It doesn’t mean tenure committee meetings include the action item “DID YOU NOTICE SHE’S A WOMAN? INAPPROPRIATE? DISCUSS.” It doesn’t mean lab doors have signs saying “no open-toed shoes and no chicks.”
Here’s what male scientists and historically male-led departments do instead: Offer little or no maternity leave for graduate students. Evaluate women employees on their personalities rather than their competence. Make jokes that cause women colleagues to feel left out and belittled. Go on national television in a shirt that shows women as decorative, sexualized semi-nudes. Hire people who just seem to fit in with the culture that thinks all of this is okay.
These aren’t targeted, conscious, deliberate acts of discrimination. They’re a miasma, a stench that settles over the science building and tells women: “This place isn’t for you.” And it’s a stink that men can’t even smell—that’s what privilege means. They’re not trying to make a noxious cloud; they support women in STEM! They just aren’t equipped to notice it, not unless they’re looking. Not unless they get out their sensors and analyze everything like a Ghostbuster walking around the New York Public Library. Who has the time?
Well, if you don’t have the time, then congratulations: You do not support women in STEM. You don’t want them there. If you did, you’d make a micron of effort to detect and dispel the Man Only fumes settling over your lab. Instead, you’re sitting at your microscope in the middle of a dense fog of poison you’re immune to, telling women “come on into the gas cloud, I don’t see why you wouldn’t, it’s fine for me.” And the sensor is inches from your hand, but you’re too lazy to pick it up.
If you actually do want to support women in STEM—and I believe that many men believe they do—then yes, you have to pay attention, and think, and care about how your culture treats them and how it makes them feel. I know this is hard. It’s unfamiliar, and unfamiliar things are often uncomfortable. It doesn’t come naturally right away. It may not come naturally for a while.
But it sure isn’t rocket science.

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Anyone who reads this blog for more than five minutes knows I am a staunch supporter of reproductive rights. All of them. All forms of birth control, in vitro fertilization, surrogates, tubal ligation, vaginal birth, home birth, planned cesarean, and abortions.

I’m Pro-Abortion, no apologies, no restrictions. Abortion is a medical procedure.  To deny one women access to a medical procedure because another woman (or man) thinks that procedure is a sin is one of the most fucked up things we do as a society. Electoral power being used to promote religious beliefs is obscene.

Denying, limiting and restricting abortions does not make us a people who value life. Denying abortions makes us judgmental and cruel.

I am reposting this mans blog post about a tragic time when he and his wife should’ve been allowed access to the abortion they wanted. Read it and tell me you have any right to make decisions for this couple.

Abortion is a compassionate choice.

Denied.

In 2013, a bill was introduced in the Texas Congress that drastically changed the access and availability of abortion services in the state. Among requirements of hospital admitting privileges and outdated procedures for administering mifepristone, was a change in when an abortion could be performed, down from 28 weeks to 20 weeks. The logic in this change was that a woman has enough time in 20 weeks to make a decision on whether to terminate a pregnancy. More than enough time, the bill’s supporters said, to make that decision.

Throughout the debate on the floor of the house and senate, I saw an amazing example of how Texas politics can work: Wendy Davis filibustered, for 11 hours, Leticia Van De Putte put the senate in its place, asking “at what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room,” hundreds of the bill’s opponents were in the gallery and the halls of the capitol building, chanting to delay the vote. Texas Republicans lied, claimed the vote happened, rescinded, and it was all a weird mixture of joy, confusion, and confoundedness that there was a group of mostly men attempting to making decisions about reproductive rights of women.

I attended the next voting session in the gallery. My mother gave testimony. We watched, and we waited, and hoped that reason would prevail. In the end, the damned thing passed. Currently Texas has eight clinics remaining.

Ever since I was a teenager, I wanted to be a father. Raising a child, watching someone grow into a being of personality, instilling values and love, to better shape a human and a generation is incredibly humbling, scary, exciting, and rewarding in ways unimaginable.

In late 2013, we found out our dream of becoming parents was coming true. We bought two pregnancy tests, they both were positive. We facetimed our parents, our friends, and were overcome with joy and planning and love for our unborn child. My wife, a prenatal yoga teacher and doula, made sure our preparation was immediate and immaculate.

At 8 weeks, we did our first ultrasound and saw our little gummi bear, its heart beating inside. I squeezed my wife’s hand, and cried with such joy. This was happening.

Just before 20 weeks, we had our anatomy ultrasound. We discovered we were having a boy. I kissed my wife, and cried with overwhelming happiness. He was happening. We did everything right that we could.

The day after our anatomy ultrasound, I get a text from my wife – she was having some spotting, and some cramping, and was headed to the midwives. She’d had periodic spotting throughout, due to a benign polyp, but this, it seemed was different.

It is my first day at a new job, but I (of course) drop everything and leave, to be with her. I’m on my bike, and have to find a cab or rental car to meet her. From her voice, I can tell she thinks it’s over already, but I hope and hope and hope.

I find a car, I scramble, I call my friend on the way to meet her, sobbing that I think it’s over already, but I hope and hope and hope. I arrive, and the midwife says she’s already dilated. From her face, I can tell that it’s over already. But I hope.

Through multiple ultrasounds, we find that there is a condition called (offensively) Incompetent Cervix, and we’re on our way to an inevitable early term birth. This is not a miscarriage. He is healthy inside. He is fine inside. He doesn’t know. He will just be born well before he should. The question is just: when?

We go to the hospital. We talk to specialists.

We have options – a cerclage (a stitch to keep the cervix closed), medicine to reduce contractions, waiting to see what will happen. Our fear and our wish is that we keep our child free from a life of pain. At 20 weeks, he will not survive. At 24 weeks, he will be a micro-preemy who may not live outside a hospital. There is a terrible window, and we are rapidly approaching it.

Any option that pushes us into giving our son a life of misery is one that terrifies us, not for us, but for him – we want him to live.

After what feels like an eternity in the hospital, going over every scenario, we find out we might be a good candidate for cerclage–only to find out hours later, that due to her cervix’s current dilation, a cerclage is likely to fail, to buy us only enough time to thrust us directly into that zone where he, due to even more laws and policies, would have to be resuscitated–and must live the life of pain from which we are desperately trying to save him.

A cerclage failure would force us beyond 20 weeks, and, due to the passage of the bill, into the time where we legally have no option but to give birth to a child who would likely not be able to live on his own, or would live with suffering we enabled by pushing him past that point. We would be forced into a time where our options had been stripped, as the legislature has told us “no more”, “this body, and this decision are no longer yours.”

We speak with our doctor, and are given the option that was previously unthinkable, completely out of bounds of possibility. Our doctor gives us the option — that if we feel this is over, if we have said goodbye, and we are ready to make the decision, that ending the pregnancy is a humane option. Our doctor, our medical doctor, tells us that it is a “reasonable decision”. Doctor speak, for “yes”.

We would have to make a decision that we never thought we would ever have to make. Whether to induce, and end a pregnancy that we both wanted so desperately, to save our child from suffering; to not inflict that agony on our unborn son.

The next day, still at the hospital, before we had been able to even begin to come to grips with such a final decision, we talk to another specialist, and we’re told they can’t do it. The bill had passed, and well, it’s just against the law. Sort of. Technically, it’s a a termination, and technically, we’re past the limit. Sort of.

The law itself says 20 weeks “from fertilization” (vs. “gestational age”), and we’re actually only 18 weeks from fertilization–my amazing wife tracked her cycle to a T. The hospital acknowledges it isn’t against the letter of the law, but it is a grey area their policies won’t let them touch. Too risky, too hot button a topic.

We are denied the opportunity to even make a humane and doctor sanctioned medical decision by a bill that we never thought would affect us. I was there at the capitol, fighting for the rights of women. It never crossed my mind I would be fighting for my own. Our last resort had become a no-man’s land.

We are sent home, to let things happen “naturally”. What this means, practically, was to spend days pacing the house, walking the neighborhood, waiting for our son to be born, so that he could die. We let him taste our favorite foods, we play him our favorite music, we show him Veronica Mars, we read to him, we tell him how much we love him. We wait for days, pace, wait, and wait, and we wait, so our son can be born, so that he can die.

The midwives come and see that our dilation is the same – maybe he can be saved? We go to an OB for a final ultrasound, who sees the amniotic sac bulging through the birth canal. The doctor describes the birth as “imminent and inevitable”. So we go back home, to wait for our son to be born, so that he can die.

Our midwife visits again and can feel our son’s foot hanging through the birth canal. Contractions begin, continue for hours and hours. Then stop. For a day.

We wait, for our son to be born, so that he can die.

The next day, contractions pick back up, my wonderful, beautiful, incredible wife labors for hours, breathing, heaving, so strong and powerful as only a woman can be in birth, so that our son could be born.

So that our son could die.

When some men think about abortion rights, they think about unwanted pregnancies. Some think about those victims of incest, rape, and terrible situations of abuse. Some think about those who may have a medical need for an abortion to save the life of the mother. Some think about access to medical services, the right for a woman to control her own body, the implications for women who live in remote locations, the impact on low income individuals.

Rarely, as a man–a man who wanted children more than anything in the world–did I ever think about how abortion rights would affect me.

In the end, we spent 3 days in the hospital, and another 7 days at home, waiting for our son to be born, and to die.

In the end, we had to force ourselves to will our son to be born, and to die, the physical, psychological and emotional trauma of which cannot be overstated.

In the end, the bill intended to save lives, didn’t save a life at all, but shattered two in half. Two that will heal, with friends, family, and time, but two hearts torn apart.

In the end, the bill did nothing but cause pain and anguish as our options narrowed and our decisions stolen.

In the end, our son felt our love for a few brief moments, and our son died.

In the end, our son was born, and our son died on April 10, 2014.

In the end, his name is William.

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Every once in a while I wake up with a migraine so bad it gives me black eyes. Like my nose caught a softball. Or a fist.

That’s today.

Pain killers, dark rooms, sleeping it off – the only thing that actually works is waiting it out. The migraine either goes away or retreats to a point I where I can function until it does.

A while back, before I discovered it was connected to my migraines, I wrote about this experience. In light of the discussion around the violence suffered by Janay Rice by her husband Ray, I am re-posting what happened to me when I had a black eye.

Does the current awareness of how to empathize and assist battered women translate into action? I’ll let you know if anyone comments on my shiner or looks askance at my explanation.

I haven’t watched the video of Rice knocking Janay unconscious. I have seen men hit women, and each other, in person and it’s horrifying enough to stick in my memory without a video refresher.


BLACK EYE March 12, 2012
I have a black eye.

I woke up the other morning with a shiner like I caught a softball with my nose. No trauma, no injury, no logical explanation. I went to see an internist who had no idea what it was, who sent me to an ophthalmologist who had no idea what it was.

After extensive questioning they could tell me what it wasn’t – it wasn’t a sinus infection, an “allergy shiner”, or related to vision, optic nerve or glaucoma. Nor was it related to any vitamins or medicine I take. They also asked if there was any domestic violence in my home. There is no violence in my home and I told them so, but I also said I appreciated that they asked.

This has been an odd experience for me, to say the least. It has also been hard on my husband to know that strangers think he hit me. Even though he doesn’t know them and isn’t with me every moment, he knows the world has judged him.

The eye looks nasty, and even after careful application of makeup, it is clearly visible. Reactions have been interesting. Some glance at my face and look away. Some stare fixedly. Some see the black eye and then give me a once over. What people are clearly doing is creating a story about how I got a black eye. Yet no one looked me in the eye or asked me how I got it.

Why wouldn’t anyone say anything? I am sure the majority of look-away-quickly people assumed my husband hit me. Some of the long stares were probably looking to see if I had work done. Some of the once-over folks were clearly judging me as someone who “allows themselves to be hit”.

While I would have been appalled at the assumption I would also have been pleased if any stranger (or the mild acquaintances like the women at my gym) had asked about my eye or even said “I hope you are OK.” But so far there has been four days of silence.

I remember when my sister was living with her (physically and mentally) abusive husband. Knowing how he treated her, and being profoundly upset by it, I once talked to people at the local domestic violence shelter and found out what to say and how to say it.

“You do not deserve this. It is not your fault. He does not have the right to hurt you or make you feel bad. I will help you if you chose to leave.”

It took almost fifteen years for her to separate from him. She left and went back to him a dozen times, and I have no idea what her situation is now.

I started to wonder what I would say if I saw someone with a black eye. Now. In my current crunchy, suburban life where things like that are not supposed to happen. But they do. We know women (and some men) are physically and emotionally abused everyday. The statistics are awful – One in four women and one in nine men are physically abused by an intimate partner during their lives.

We need to ask ourselves tough questions. ‘What would I say and how would I say it?’ And ‘When is it my responsibility to say something?’ Or more importantly, why isn’t it everyone’s business to end domestic violence?

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