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Our Reductionist Dualism

I’ve done my research, and the only question I have is, “What’s all the fuss about?”

My research consisted of three videos and some headlines, quite extensive in this day and age, yet the question remains the same, “What is all the fuss about?”

It came to my attention the next day, when people kept making comments about how sexy she was and how awful it was. Then I saw a headline that demeaned the nature of those criticisms because it failed to protect the black dancers behind her. And, then I see something else that again chastises her for failing to have any self-respect. And, then I saw someone posted a picture of her in comparison to a giraffe. I didn’t even know it was her until later, thinking it was some other young, bubbly, white, female sex kitten of the day.

Yes, I’m talking about Miley Cyrus’ performance at the MTV Video Music Awards.

The Teddy Bears

We don’t have television. So, I became vaguely aware they took place after a few friends had updated commentary whilst it was filming. I didn’t realize what it was until a few days later. I confess, I became curious, so I did my next research: I watched the videos.

Well, the first attempt at watching the VMA performance failed, as MTV’s site didn’t buffer well with my connection and computer. So, thank YouTube for its efforts in allowing me to complete my research tonight on my iPhone.

First, I watched the VMA video. I didn’t understand it. This was my second introduction to the song “Blurred Lines”, the first of which I only listened to for a few moments and decided it wasn’t for me. I didn’t understand why they big bear was on the stage wearing glasses like Geordi. I didn’t understand why it opened up and a girl (later realizing that was Miley Cyrus) was wearing a strange teddy bear uniform sticking her tongue out like a snake. I kind of understood the big bears dancing on stage (I have seen some of the Harlem Shake videos), it seemed part of this genre we are in, defining. It seemed like the performance had three parts: teddy bear, nude bathing suit, finishing with Robin Thicke & Co.

Okay, so it was a terrible performance in my estimation. The choreography was confusing, and it was knit together by a strange theme and the colors black and white. Fine, I don’t understand pop culture much these days. (Something happens when you become a parent and your days are consumed with Clifford, Baby Einstein, and Legos.)

Snip from Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines

I then continued with my research with watching the Blurred Lines video(s). There were two: one with the most hits on YouTube and an “X” (un) rated video. I understood pretty quickly where they chose Miley’s costume – simply from the nude, bikini (rated or nude on top, x-rated) clad woman carrying the fan finger. In this costume, the model/actress only had a small part in both videos. It seems MTV simply made Miley’s entire act from this 5 second clip.

Not having heard the song in its entirety before, nor having watched the video – I quickly understood the irony behind “Blurred Lines”. Thicke continues to repeat that he wants a good girl while these beautiful sex kittens parade scantily clad or nude across the screen. Their bodies perfectly emulating today’s rigid standard of beauty.

It became clear that Thicke is making sexy the “Madonna/Whore” irony that boys so tediously deal with.

And, yet, it’s Miley Cyrus who, perhaps just went along with a director’s wish, is chastised for lack of self-respect and being too sexy on-screen.

Oh, yes, the irony is abound.

So, why, my husband inquires, am I spending so much time on this silliness? It’s just gossip. I’m spending time on it because, like Trayvon Martin, we don’t have our eye on the ball. We are vilifying Miley for being sexy without vilifying Thicke for promoting the Madonna/Whore complex. We vilify George Zimmerman without recognizing our own racism. We live in this dualistic, reductionist phase in our society, and I think it’s worth continued acknowledgement to help us move out of this paradigm shift.

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Tactics in Getting Things Done

[NOTE: I’m reluctant to post this post. This pontification of how to manage relationships in a day, I fear might come off as manipulative. But, that is not my intent. A friend said to me once that when entering a new workforce, it’s one’s job to figure out how to communicate with all those different personalities. We all need information, so how can we get the information we need to get our jobs done? It’s from that thinking that I write this – we all have ways in which we try to get things done, and I am interested in exploring the strategies behind those ways.]

View two: thumbs up
Levi was equally as insistent on this pose. Teamwork showcased by thumbs up is necessary.

It’s amazing to me how much strategy goes into doing a thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s parenting, being a wife, a sister, a daughter, a colleague, a boss, a volunteer, a volunteer board member… All roles involve some level of strategy. As an INTJ (Introvert, Intuition, Thinking, Judging), sometimes dubbed “Mastermind”, strategy speaks to me. Regardless, I find it interesting the aresenal of strategy must one employ some days to simply get things done.

In general, my basic tactic is this: assume curiosity, listen, and ask clarifying questions. I try to suppress whatever judgements I might have, reverse the situation and ask questions. I try to be sure I have compassion in my heart, otherwise I come off as sarcastic and rude (as evidenced in my later example). This tactic, though, works best when I plan for it.

Let’s continue with a different sort of example: raising children. I decided that I would not be (100%) my mother. I love my mother, no matter what. My mother, though, made choices based on her situation and what she knew. A lot of those things are the same: enforcing boundaries, recognizing needs, putting your kids first for many things. Some things are different like when we let our kids watch TV, when my husband and I decided to put our kid in school, how we negotiate punishments. I have been using a tactic, for example, where I respond with “asked and answered” when asked, repeatedly, the same question. “Mom, can I play Pac-Man?” No. “Why not?” Because I said so. “Mom, if you do this thing, I’ll let you play Pac-Man with me.” Asked and answered, Levi.

That’s a benign difference though. My mother had her own “asked and answered”. One point where we differ is food. I hated the food wars I had growing up. Being forced to eat spinach (canned, which to this day I despise, though freshI thoroughly enjoy), and the fight we would have over a tiny tablespoon – having to choke it down in all its sliminess. So, I don’t want to have food wars with my son… but he used to eat everything. Then we sent him to preschool, at the same time those taste buds of his started developing, more, in earnest. Suddenly, my child who used to eat everything (and is to this day commended as a “good eater” despite his pickiness!) became a very picky eater.

Levi at his birthday party, before him, the custom made cupcakes for my darling picky eater.
Levi at his birthday party, before him, the custom made cupcakes for my darling picky eater.

Suddenly, I was faced with a picky eater while working 40 hours a week, plus volunteering. Time is of the essence, and fighting over food isn’t how I want to spend the two hours we have from when we get home until bedtime. So, I started enabling the simple palette of buttered noodles, cheese, and apples. To the point that my child thinks that he can decide what’s for dinner! The audacity. As such, the tactics change. Did I give you a choice for dinner, Levi? “No.” Okay then. Steadfastly, we’ve been employing a tablespoon of everything – finish that, and then you get more. Don’t eat any of it? Then it’s served for the next (and the next if necessary) meal. I am not a short order cook; I am a mother with limited time on her hands!

Groups outside the family are notorious for strategy. I employ strategy when picking up the phone, constructing emails, choosing what to and what not to say to colleagues and supervisors. And, in one space, (at least one space) there is one individual, who I think takes joy in my screwing up. I expect him to call out my mistakes, while I imagine him gleefully rueful at his computer. So, I am prepared with strategy: THANK YOU sir for pointing out the error of my ways! Here is the corrected thing so that we may all move forward, quickly! Your guidance and mentorship (truly meant) are very helpful!

As I write this, I know how sarcastic it sounds – but I really don’t use sarcasm when it comes to these situations. A sarcastic strategy would only do a disservice. In fact, I fear for the sarcastic strategy because I think it would be more likely to backfire. I often wish sarcastic strategies would work for me, but I fear the disservice because it’s only been a disservice to me. (Maybe being sarcastic about a household chore, only to have it go undone when sarcasm was used to encourage it getting done.) So, imagine my delight when I heard on NPR this morning about how a campaign to save Troy’s Public Library from the tax cutting block worked, likely because of sarcasm!

Back in 2011, after a series of funding cuts that affected many municipalities, Troy’s library was slated to turn into a storage facility. After many repeated, unsuccessful attempts to get voters to turn out in support of funding the library – a group of citizens launched a sarcastic campaign: they called for a book burning party two days after the vote! (Read more about the Troy Book Burning Strategy.)

Not all strategies work for every situation. While I might “kill my colleague with kindness” to spite his rueful nature, I might forget where i’m not expecting it. Sometimes, when in situations, I might even choose an envelope pushing strategy, not unlike the Troy Book Burning, to call attention to a situation.

What kind of strategies do you employ? What are your most successful strategies that you use to get a job done?


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2-3 cups of guacamole on top of 9 cups of salsa (all homemade).
2-3 cups of guacamole on top of 9 cups of salsa (all homemade).

The salsa was made. 9 cups. The guacamole was created. Maybe 2 cups. It was packed. It was ready. Now all we had to do was get the rest of our stuff: swimsuits, towels, water bottles. We’d have to stop on the way to get ice. But, then, we could play, munch, and build community with my fellow staffers.

“Levi,” I called, “It’s time to go.”

It was only a mere 20 minutes since my husband had left for work. Clifford, via PBS Kids, was humming along on Levi’s computer.

“Come on Levi,” I attempted, again, “We have to get ready.”

Nothing. No noise at all. Was I so engrossed in salsa and guacamole that I didn’t hear… well, something?

I walk to the living room. The computer is humming along with no audience.

I walk around the couch, a foot into the hall, and I turn left.

“Odd”, I thought, “his door is closed.”

The silly boy put himself to bed, for a nap!
The silly boy put himself to bed, for a nap!

So, I open the door. The newly created “fort-bed” was closed. There was silence. I walked over to the fort-bed, and I lifted the cover. There was the boy. He had put himself to bed. He had put himself down for a nap. It was 2:17. We needed to leave now to beat anymore rush hour traffic and visit with staffers for about two hours. This boy was out cold. We were not going to make it.

My colleagues were without salsa and guar, but I will bring it in the office tomorrow. We’ll have a reprise of our “staff fun day.”

It’s these kind of conflicts, though, that boggle my mind. How are we supposed to navigate all of this? All of these responsibilities and ideas of where we should be. Staying focused on multiple goals (multitasking life!) in order to serve all the masters we serve.

I made a choice. Experience has taught me that rested children are happy children. I want to build our home for success, and that means ensuring one’s basic needs are met. Sure, I went without bonding with staff, but my son is more important. I may not be at my job next year, but I do plan on having my son.

Levi toured his revised fort-bed that now is bolstered by all the dining room chairs.
Levi toured his revised fort-bed that now is bolstered by all the dining room chairs.

Later in the evening, I was validated with my choice. Levi woke up two hours after I caught him napping. After we had a simple dinner, he confided, “I’m in a much better mood.”

“Oh? Were you in a bad mood before?”

He shrugged his shoulders but offered that the nap certainly helped. And, all day he was polite! Pleases and thank yous for nearly everything! He was cuddly and fun to be around. The monetary pay is crap, for being a mother. But, when I can get a Levi hug – life is better.

For more recent reading on the crazy imbalances we subject ourselves to – choosing work over family life, and the strange dichotomy between men and woman, read the following.

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Setting Teams up for Success

Silly group shot. My delightfully silly familial teammates.
Silly group shot. My delightfully silly familial teammates.

She looked at me like I was crazy. I had said to her, “I would rather be in an environment that sets you up for success and not failure.”

I could imagine her unstated rebuttal:

  • there is risk inherent in everything,
  • every job requires peddling a good or service and you need clients to buy that from you,
  • every job is about relationships and navigating those waters, so why are you complaining?

Seeing the quizzical look on her face, I continued, “I’ve heard more than once lately examples of people choosing to work in different situations where the dynamics were different, and they were set up for success and not failure, and how they are much happier.” She paused and walked away.

What does that mean? What does it mean to be set up for success and not failure? I think I’ll take the latter first. This is what being set up for failure sometimes feels like…

  • Everyone seems to be out for their own gain, and there is no unification around the company’s goal.
  • You get more criticisms of thought than support, no matter that in other groups those same ideas for similar purposes would be celebrated.
  • You get more resistance to things than the go-ahead to have autonomy over a project. Maybe you need to respond to a committee for the tiniest of daily minutiae, and it holds up projects and not propels them forward.
  • You are subverted from projects you had previously been deemed in charge.
  • Colleagues seem to hide things or hold things back when communicating and not airing and getting issues dealt with.
  • Ownership of mistakes is not oft taken and more often it’s a game of passing the buck.
    (One colleague said of the other, “She doesn’t delegate well.” And, not two days later the other colleague said the same of the first!)

Maybe, too, “leadership” fails to budget for needed things, fails to understand what really goes into a job, fails to listen when presented with facts and solutions, and passes the buck onto employees who try to make a difference. “Experts” are paraded in providing advice without listening and expectations are that one should toe their line regardless if the solution is a good fit. Leadership fails to discuss issues at hand, and then wonders why the cycle repeats itself. Employees constantly feel the need to “manage up” to divert poor management choices.

So, what does a successful team look like? The best example of a successful team that I have experienced was when my food club was first starting. The energy was new, it was exciting. We were passionately organizing around a shared goal: procuring good, wholesome, local products for our families. We understood the issues, and we collectively worked to tackle them – excitedly. We were eager to be around each other, and we liked one another. Even the personalities that were more difficult to deal with (they didn’t listen, they charged ahead with their own ideas without consenting with the rest of the group, they weren’t forthcoming with  what they had done leaving others blind, they were rude, they talked down to other members, etc.) were manageable. In part, my role within this group was different. We were viewed more as peers, and I was perhaps a leader of some (I still wear the title of “President”, though I view our group as very egalitarian). Besides some ego-infighting, it wasn’t that which you might get around a paid position. This group I helped choose, and I helped build. And, together we defined and achieved success. We were quick to name barriers to success, and then we removed those barriers. We communicated, and because, again, we were unified around a common goal, egos had less impact on finding solutions. We purposely set a roadmap for success and followed it.

Daddy-monster and Levi show mommy how to successfully use crutches.
Daddy-monster and Levi show mommy how to successfully use crutches.

Another example is working with my child’s school. Part of growing up is learning to deal with stuff – grades, rules, behaving in society. Part of growing up is finding where your drummer is and marching to that drummer’s beat and not another. I believe that part of our job, as parents, is to help navigate the school system, such as, helping to pave the most successful way for both my child and the school. We remove barriers (like behavior barriers when my son is acting out) and we try to communicate with teachers and administrators to make sure both teacher and students are getting the most out of the day. We have chosen not to go back to schools where our needs to success aren’t met.

So, yes, dear colleague, I would rather be in a place where the whole generally tries to work towards success – not a never-ending spiral of missed deadlines, too much work, and delegation without thought or consideration for what might be on someone’s plate. I admire those who have been able to forge their way into teams that build themselves up for good so they can truly benefit the greater good. I wonder – what would our world look like if we could all focus on common issues and drop our egos and belief that we need to tell others how to live their lives. Would we actually achieve success as a society?

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My Grandmother

She was born on July 1, 1927. She died on August 17, 2013. She was 86 years old. She met her, still living, husband while she was in junior high. They married young. He went to World War II. She stayed home. I don’t know much about her life then. At some point, she gave birth to her first of 6 sons, with 4 girls sprinkled in between.

My first memory is now fuzzy. It’s of her wearing purple, tending to the first cakes of my twin siblings. I must have been about 2 years old. My second memory is of my grandmother helping us move. We had to because my father left us and my mother didn’t have a job. We lived in an upstairs apartment in Iron Mountain, Michigan. I was really mad. I said something about “goodbye”, and she said, “It’s never good-bye. It’s so long.” She was probably only 56 – she was just Grandma to me.

We stayed with them, my grandparents, that summer. When we moved again, it was to a different home, nearing the end of our constant moving. My grandmother’s home – The Farm – was my stability growing up. We always went back there no matter where we lived.

The Farm – the home that my grandmother made – was home to so many. The doors are always open. There was always something yummy to eat, until the last few years, when cooking became more difficult. In fact, the last time I saw my grandmother, I cooked because she couldn’t. She, my vibrant full of life grandmother, spent her last few years in and out of the hospital with congestive heart failure (CHF) and related complications – resulting in an oxygen tube most of the time. These last few weeks, she’s been in a nursing home with my grandfather.

I never thought they would end their lives this way. My step-grandparents – it made sense. They were the retirement birds who flew down to Florida and watched as their friends just died off. This logically made sense to me that they would not live much past 80 – and they didn’t. But, my grandparents, living their routines, were somehow immune to the aging process. They kept on kicking. They kept on doing the same things, over and over. Getting up, making the bed, canning, making bread, dinners, breakfasts, lunch, visitors.

Shortly after my wedding – things changed. Grandpa became affected by dementia, and he now suffers from Alzheimer’s. And, then Grandma got CHF. How?! How could my grandmother, my healthy vibrant grandmother be prone to a chronic illness so late in her life? It was then that I began bracing myself for their deaths. I now wonder how much longer my grandfather can really go on. My grandmother was ready to die last year. Regardless, watching the transition from health to illness is sad, and slow. And the question remains: why?

Shortly after my sister passed away – the answer was clear – it doesn’t make sense, it just is. Life just is. We have to live it to the best of our abilities, whilst keeping our sanity, and trying to enjoy the company of others as we go along.

You really never know when that hug will be the last.

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LinkedIn Management, Suggestion Solicitations

Career Map
My Vizify profile outlines the varied interests that have captivated my attention over the last fifteen years.

LinkedIn strictly instructs: do not accept new connections unless you know them. OK – I can buy into that, in this confused day and age of social media. But, LinkedIn is such an amazing connection tool. What happens when really interesting people want to connect with you? What are you supposed to do?

I want to meet everyone for coffee first. I want to hear stories. I want to exchange passions. I want to learn how we can both be beneficial to each other. I cannot network you with another if I don’t know about you. I’ve been encouraged to connect with others as a way to piqué interest, which I’ve done. And, I can get that. But, I don’t really want to connect with that person until I know them. So, for those who’ve contacted me, I am paralyzed and unsure of what to do.

The unfair strategy I now use is ignoring the request. They hangout in my LinkedIn notification bar, reminding me of my delinquency as I pursue other things. I’m busy. The pie of time is split very strictly between sleep, family, work, and volunteer activities. My ability to mingle and meet new people is relegated to conferences or the occasional coffee during work hours or the take-away-from-family time weekend mornings. I wish I had at least 8 hours a week making new connections. It’s amazing how quickly that pie-time-chart fills up with things that must happen that precludes meeting new people to further a promise of a career.

So, what is a gal supposed to do? Email exchanges? I have a hard time catching up with the emails that are now marked as unread in the variety of in boxes I manage. Phone calls? I find that no one uses the phone anymore, and I often have to remind people who it’s more than a texting device.

Recruiter friends – please share – what are your best practice connection tips with LinkedIn? How do you suggest busy people manage the pie-time-chart to make effective, useful connections for both parties?

Please! Discuss! Engage! Share ideas.

Thank you.

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Getting Lucky at the Lab

Levi, my lovely child, is walking through the Pumpkin Patch last October. Our children deserve safe, stable, healthy, affordable homes. Come celebrate with me so we can make sure all children have access to great housing!
Levi, my lovely child, is walking through the Pumpkin Patch last October. Our children deserve safe, stable, healthy, affordable homes. Come celebrate with me so we can make sure all children have access to great housing!

It’s my birthday, and I’m throwing a party! Okay, clarification, it was my birthday, but I’m still throwing a party. Come join me at the Lucky Lab Tap Room on Friday, September 13th. Join me and raise money for CAT!

Why do I want to raise money for CAT? What is CAT? CAT is The Community Alliance of Tenants, Oregon’s only renters’ rights organization. I’ve spent a lot of time there, over the last five years, because I firmly believe that societal change begins at home. And, that’s what CAT does – we empower renters to make sure they have safe, stable, and affordable homes.

It is our job to make sure we leave this world in a better place. I believe this world would be a better place if we could all realize our potential. I believe in Maslow’s Hierarchy of achieving self-actualization – our potential – but it starts with taking care of basic needs. And basic needs start with having enough to eat, enough to wear, and a safe home to call home.

IMG_4760 sm.jpg
Mommy and Levi posing at the coffee shop, our community space where we spend time together over cocoa and mochas.

I am celebrating my 35th year by raising $3,500 for this organization I love. And, I am celebrating at the Lucky Lab Tap Room. Don’t worry, if you don’t live in the area, there are plenty of ways to give! Donate to the organization I love, and help make my dream of raising $3,500 come true. Change starts at home. At CAT, we make good renters. Good renters make good communities, and good communities support one another to make our entire society better, more understanding, and more loving. At CAT, we make positive change a reality.

You’re invited. Please join me on Friday, September 13th as I toast my 35th year by raising $3,500 for the Community Alliance of Tenants. You can RSVP today or just give if you can’t come. I would love to see you all there. YOU are a part of my community, and I would love for you to help me celebrate a better society for us, for our children, and our children’s children.

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Vacation Day 4

And, this brings us to the close of our vacation. A slow morning, in an upgraded “apartment”, checking out, then wandering the beach. We drove up ORS 18, a road we rarely travel, until we got to the crowded metro roads and eventually back home. It’s good to be back, but we definitely need to do this again.

Lincoln Beach

Maybe next time we can find a cottage in Eureka so we drive through the Redwoods, quite literally.

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Vacation Day 3

Well, spotty internet connections precluded me from doing my daily post last night. So, here we go today.

Yesterday’s adventures found us winding up from North Bend, through Florence to Newport, Oregon. Then, we eventually stopped just south of Lincoln City for our final night stay of our vacation.

Homegrown, Florence, Oregon

Heceta Head Lighthouse

Bob Creek Wayside, Oregon State Parks

Cape Perpetua

We decided to skip the sea lion caves… the Yelp Reviews didn’t lend itself to much excitement. And, we finished off with the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

That concluded Day 3.

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Vacation Day 2

Egads! I completely missed a handful of pictures from yesterday – namely, the beginning of our trip which began at Coco’s Doughnuts.

So, here’s a glimpse at Day 2, where we sped through the Redwoods, and then realized our catastrophic mistake – the drive thru tree is 30 miles south of Eureka! Regardless, we had a great time in Arcata, saw the Trillium Falls, took some fun photos on the South Coast, and had terrific Thai at a local Thai joint. Now to get some rest, for tomorrow is museum day.

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