Tag Archives: love

Tunes Tuesday: Same Love

I just discovered this song this weekend and it simply left me speechless with its powerful message and beautiful music. I think it is my new favorite song. I hope you like it too.

Same Love
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Featuring Mary Lambert

When I was in the third grade
I thought that I was gay
‘Cause I could draw, my uncle was, and I kept my room straight

I told my mom tears rushing down my face
She’s like “Ben you’ve loved girls since before pre-k tripping,”
Yeah, I guess she had a point, didn’t she?
Bunch of stereotypes all in my head.

I remember doing the math like, “Yeah, I’m good at little league”
A preconceived idea of what it all meant
For those that liked the same sex
Had the characteristics

The right wing conservatives think it’s a decision
And you can be cured with some treatment and religion
Man made rewiring of a predisposition

Playing god, aw nah here we go
America the brave still fears what we don’t know
And god loves all his children, is somehow forgotten
But we paraphrase a book written thirty-five-hundred years ago
I don’t know

And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
I can’t change
Even if I try
Even if I wanted to
My love
My love
My love
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm

If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me
Have you read the YouTube comments lately
“Man, that’s gay” gets dropped on the daily

We become so numb to what we’re saying
A culture founded from oppression
Yet we don’t have acceptance for ‘em

Call each other faggots behind the keys of a message board
A word rooted in hate, yet our genre still ignores it
Gay is synonymous with the lesser

It’s the same hate that’s caused wars from religion
Gender to skin color, the complexion of your pigment
The same fight that led people to walk outs and sit ins

It’s human rights for everybody, there is no difference!
Live on and be yourself

When I was at church they taught me something else
If you preach hate at the service those words aren’t anointed
That holy water that you soak in has been poisoned

When everyone else is more comfortable remaining voiceless
Rather than fighting for humans that have had their rights stolen
I might not be the same, but that’s not important
No freedom till we’re equal, damn right I support it

And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
My love
My love
My love
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm

We press play, don’t press pause
Progress, march on
With the veil over our eyes
We turn our back on the cause
Till the day that my uncles can be united by law

When kids are walking ‘round the hallway plagued by pain in their heart
A world so hateful some would rather die than be who they are
And a certificate on paper isn’t gonna solve it all
But it’s a damn good place to start
No law is gonna change us
We have to change us
Whatever god you believe in
We come from the same one
Strip away the fear
Underneath it’s all the same love
About time that we raised up

And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
I can’t change
Even if I try
Even if I wanted to
My love
My love
My love
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
Love is patient
Love is kind
Love is patient
Love is kind
(I‘m not crying on Sundays)
Love is patient
(I‘m not crying on Sundays)
Love is kind
(I‘m not crying on Sundays)
Love is patient
(I‘m not crying on Sundays)
Love is kind
(I‘m not crying on Sundays)
Love is patient
(I‘m not crying on Sundays)
Love is kind
(I‘m not crying on Sundays)
Love is patient
Love is kind

What do you think? Has a song’s lyrics ever made you speechless the first time you listened to them? What song?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

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Filed under equality, Love, Music, Stereotypes

Tunes Tuesday: Lucinda Williams – Side of the Road

Copyright JC Politi Photography

For this Tunes Tuesday, I am going to highlight a song that makes me think of summer and love. The song I chose this week is called Side of the Road by Lucinda Williams.

Lucinda Williams has so many great song lyrics to choose from, but this particular song has always resonated with me. The song describes a feeling that is hard to put into words, but like the brilliant singer-songwriter she is, she nails it.

It also makes me think of a quote that I have always loved by Khalil Gibran, which is often read at weddings:

Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

This is the kind of romance that I want – the kind that respects the beauty of each individual and which becomes even more beautiful when the two are combined.

So, without further ado, I give you Lucinda Williams, Side of the Road.

Side of the Road
Lucinda Williams

You wait in the car on the side of the road
Lemme go and stand awhile, I wanna know you’re there but I wanna be alone
If only for a minute or two
I wanna see what it feels like to be without you
I wanna know the touch of my own skin
Against the sun, against the wind

I walked out in a field, the grass was high, it brushed against my legs
I just stood and looked out at the open space and a farmhouse out a ways
And I wondered about the people who lived in it
And I wondered if they were happy and content
Were there children and a man and a wife?
Did she love him and take her hair down at night?

If I stray away too far from you, don’t go and try to find me
It doesn’t mean I don’t love you, it doesn’t mean I won’t come back and
stay beside you
It only means I need a little time
To follow that unbroken line
To a place where the wild things grow
To a place where I used to always go

La la la, la la la, la la la, la la la
La la la la, la la la, la la la, la la la
If only for a minute or two
I wanna see what it feels like to be without you
I wanna know the touch of my own skin
Against the sun, against the wind

What do you think? What song tells your kind of love story?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Love, Music, Photography

Helicopter Parents and Tiger Moms: Turns Out Neither Knows Best

Copyright JC Politi Photography

There was an opinion piece in the New York Times this weekend called “Raising Successful Children” which generated quite a bit of discussion.

The article examines the latest parenting research which found that giving children autonomy and allowing them to make mistakes leads to the best long-term outcomes.

My parents did a great job with this. I was sent to a sleep-away summer camp for the most of the summer every year in my formative years. I feel like this helped shape who I am more than almost anything else.

I worked for a wonderful organization called Amigos de las Americas which provides opportunities for young people to live in remote villages Latin America, where their autonomy is simply not in question.

These types of experiences can really help young people develop confidence in their abilities. The Times article lays out research to prove this hypothesis.

But it seems that it has become harder for parents to give their children space to make mistakes and to develop their independence. The article points out that there has been much attention devoted to “helicopter parents” and “tiger mothers” in the news in recent years.

I am not a parent and I can imagine that it would be difficult to find the balance between protecting your children and letting your children forge their own path. But I am intrigued and curious about what makes it more difficult for parents to do this today than when I was younger.

Certainly, when I was younger, we had parents who lived vicariously through their children, but I don’t feel like there was quite as much of what I see as overprotecting children.

What do you think? Do you think that parents are more protective now of their children that when you were young? Do you think this has to do with the increased dangers in our society like gun violence and crime? Do you struggle with this as a parent? Have you found any tips or strategies you would like to share with others?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

If you liked this, you might also like:

The Ritalan Generation: Why do some children fall behind in school? (newsofthetimes)

The Power of Strengths and Weaknesses: Giving kids permission to just be (newsofthetimes)

A New Kind of Playground: What happens when young children are connected with technology? (newsofthetimes)

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Filed under Career Planning, Culture, Education, Love, Parenting, Relationships, social pressures, Technology, Youth Leadership

Love is All Around

One of many signs this morning.
Copyright JC Politi Photography

In light of the horrific events in Colorado on Friday, I thought I would dedicate today’s post to love.

I just finished my first sprint triathlon of the summer (1/4 mile swim, 17+ mile bike and 3.1 mile run!!) and all I could think about this morning as I looked around me was love.

I have only done all-womens triathlons. Every event I have done, I have left inspired by the women of all ages, shapes and sizes who are putting themselves through something physically challenging just to know they can do it. The support the women show each other is truly inspiring.

But what has really touched me in these events is the men who come to support the women in their lives. They come with signs, with advice, with music and with cameras. And they come with love and support. I can’t explain what this means to the women racing.

I do triathlons for many reasons, but one of the reasons is to have something that is all my own. Something that enables me to feel like I really accomplished something I set my mind to. The fact that the men at these races support their partners who have similar goals warms my heart.

And my sweet husband is one of them, so I thank him for that.

In the immortal words of the movie Love, Actually:

Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion… love actually is all around.

A few other things that inspired me to write this post:

I came across a post yesterday called Heartwarming Quotes from Children About Love. Some adults asked the kids to tell them what love meant to them. Some of my favorites:

When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.” Karen – age 7

“Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss.” Emily – age 8

“Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.” Karl – age 5

You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.” Jessica – age 8

And finally, my post on love would not be complete without including this wonderful video, which to me is just a picture of love around the world. Thank you to Mimi from Waiting for the Karma Truck for this one.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pwe-pA6TaZk&feature=player_detailpage

What do you think? What are some of your favorite movies about love? Or poems? Or quotes? What is something simple that makes you realize that love is all around?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

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Filed under Culture, Fitness, Love, Parenting, Relationships, social pressures, Women

Secrets to a Long, Happy Marriage

From our Wedding in Argentina – 2007

Marriage is hard. We hear this all the time.

There is an article in the New York Times this week called The Wedding Effect, which really touched me.

The author is 29 years old and the article provides an honest, almost raw portrayal of her fears and skepticism regarding marriage. She calls marriage a “daredevil leap of faith,” which I think describes it perfectly.

The article held my interest for several reasons.

First, I could have written this same article at 29. My parents divorced when I was quite young – I think I was six. I was fortunate to have grandparents on both sides of the family who lived beyond 80, but both of their spouses died young.

When I was growing up, I had very few examples of marriage working through thick and thin. I had friends whose parents were still married and I remember being fascinated when I would occasionally hear their parents fight because I didn’t think people whose parents stayed together fought. I thought fighting meant divorce.

My husband and I have been married for five years this year. That feels like quite an accomplishment.

But this article reminded me of fears that I know are deeply embedded in my psyche about whether marriages can last. I am very happy in my marriage, and know that these questions come from that obnoxious inner voice whose words I simply need to hear and let go, much like the inner messages we hear telling us that we are not good enough.

From our small Baltimore wedding – we had two! Same dress…:-)

Whenever I meet couples who have been together for years, I ask their secret for a long marriage. This is not an attempt to make conversation. I am simply trying to place as many tools in my toolbox as I can to keep my marriage strong and to make up for the fact that my experience in my immediate family seemed to illustrate that only second marriages survive.

There is another interesting component to this article which is related to conversations we have had on this blog about women in the workplace. So many women have chosen to focus on their careers before marriage and before having children.

As I have written before, this can lead to women finding that by the time they are ready to have kids, their biological clocks have run out.

It is a cruel trick of nature and science definitely has it backwards on this one. I am quite confident I would be a significantly better parent now that I am 40 than I would have been at 21.

But I wonder how much of the fact that people are getting married later can be explained by fears like those described in this article. Statistics show the proliferation of children of divorce. This has to contribute to people getting married later in life.

What do you think? I would love to hear thoughts and advice for what keeps a marriage strong and healthy, through good and bad. What makes second marriages more successful? How do you silence the voices that question if your marriage is perfect? Is any marriage perfect? And do you think the fact that so many people came from homes with divorced parents is leading to later marriage? What impact do you see this having over the long term?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

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Filed under Career Planning, Parenting, Relationships, Religion, social pressures, Women

The Power of Strengths and Weaknesses: Giving Kids Permission to Just Be

Photo Courtesy of Danny Brown

The old man pointed to a baker standing in his shop window at one corner of the plaza. “When he was a child, that man wanted to travel, too. But he decided first to buy his bakery  and put some money aside. When he is an old man, he’s going to spend a month in Africa. He never realized that people are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.”

“He should have decided to become a shepherd,” the boy said.

“Well, he thought about that,” the old man said. “But bakers are more important people than shepherds.”…

“In the long run, what people think about shepherds and bakers becomes more important for them than their own Personal Legends.”

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

 

A New York Times article, “Redefining Success and Celebrating the Ordinary” has been on the list of the most e-mailed articles for some time now. This topic fits with the theme of the last few weeks on this blog, so I thought I would explore this issue further.

The article discusses the tendency, at least in the United States, for people to push their children to excel at all levels, filling their time with activities and events which provide further opportunities to compete with their peers.

I am sure many of you read about a commencement speech earlier this year where the speaker told the students that they were not exceptional. The reactions to this speech were heated.

But perhaps the speaker was just trying to give the students permission to find value and define success differently than their parents and society prescribe. Perhaps the speaker was trying to help students understand that it is OK to have both strengths and weaknesses.

The constant drive to compete is positive in many ways. It can lead to innovation and progress.But at what price? Where is creativity encouraged?

What about the artist who is not strong at math or writing, but can compose a symphony or paint a beautiful landscape? Where is the encouragement for this type of success?

Where is the recognition of people who may not be academics, but build and maintain personal relationships better than most?

Part of the stress many of us feel, where people run themselves ragged at all times and fail to disconnect from work, even when on vacation, seems to come from this drive. People think, “If I don’t stay connected, will people think that I am not a hard worker? Will I appear to lack ambition?”

What are we teaching our children with these messages? Are we teaching our children to develop the same neuroses that we have developed, where the prioritization of work over relationships is sorely misaligned?

This problem has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. It is striking to me, how every speech by a major politician is peppered with statements that the United States is the best country in the world.

There are many areas where the United States excels and there are also areas, like healthcare, where the United States has much to learn from the rest of the world. The US has strengths and weaknesses, just like any person or child. And is there really anything wrong with that?

What do you think? What do you think accounts for people’s relentless drive to be the best and to push their children to be the best? Have you dealt with these pressures as a parent or an employee? Do you have any tips for others who would like to readjust their priorities and goals? Do you feel that this drive alienates potential teammates in a workplace or a social environment? Why do you think this issue has gotten so much attention lately? Do you think the intensity of the pressures have increased recently? And if so, why do you think that is?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

 

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The Freedom of a Vacation: Why Would We Give That Up?

Copyright JC Politi Photography

 

Without the ability to be gay and treat serious things lightly after the serious thinking is done and the decision is reached, I doubt whether any man could long carry the job of being President of the United States.
Eleanor Roosevelt

An article in the New York Times called “Vacation Sabotage: Don’t Let it Happen to You,” is interesting, especially in light of the robust discussions we have had on this blog about the challenges of finding work-life balance.

The article discusses things that we do to ensure that we are unable to relax, even when on vacation.It offers several helpful tips and suggestions.

We all know how this works and this article validates our experience. The first few days of vacation, it can be difficult to unwind. The last few days of a vacation, we dread returning to real life. Hopefully, we can find a few days in between, where we actually relax.

With the onslaught of technology, especially e-mail and smart phones, many of us remain connected even while on vacation. I am guilty of this myself. I don’t want to return to an avalanche of messages in my inbox, so I handle minor things while on vacation.

But I have considered the dangers of doing this. If something significant occurs and I learn about it while on vacation, what happens to the relaxation and disconnection that is meant to help prepare me to handle these crisis in a better way upon my return?

I lived in New York City when I graduated from college. I remember being overwhelmed by the intensity of the city. I thought Central Park would be a refuge from all of that, but I found the intensity still palpable; it like people were intensely relaxing.

I have written much here about the importance of slowing down and finding a balance between work and life. But if we cannot even give ourselves permission to disconnect when we’re on vacation, what hope do we have?

CopyrightJC Politi Photography

The good news in the article is that we seem to view three day weekends and one day holidays differently than we do vacations.

So, this 4th of July, for those of you in the United States, let’s commit to turning off our work messages completely.

Let’s enjoy the heat that slows everything to a snail’s pace and notice the coolness of the water when we swim and the savor the tastes of the food on the grill and a refreshing cold drink. Let’s take time to laugh with family and friends and play with our pets. Now THAT is freedom!

What do you think? Do we feel the need to remain connected when we are on vacation because of the expectations of our employers or do our employers have these expectations because we remain connected on vacation? Do you have trouble disconnecting when you are on vacation? Do you check e-mail when you are gone?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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The Importance of Slowing Down in a Busy Bee Culture

Copyright JC Politi Photography

There is more to life than increasing its speed.
Mohandas K. Gandhi

An article on the Opinionator blog of the New York Times called “The Busy Trap” is getting a lot of attention this week.

This article explores the notion that the frenetic pace so many of us engage in on a daily basis is self-imposed. While the author’s approach seems a bit self-indulgent and impractical, he has a point.

So many of us rush from place to place or appointment to appointment and collapse at the end of the day in front of the television in exhaustion. It appears that we are encouraging our children to do the same. There must be another way.

While I understand that most of us cannot live lives devoid of professional work, finding a balance within this reality has become my personal quest.

One of the lines that spoke to me in this article was this:

I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love.

Copyright JC Politi Photography

My most creative and innovative ideas come, not when I am rushing between meetings, but during times of relaxation, sometimes through exercise or through conversations with friends. I know I am not alone.

Some companies, I believe Google is one, reserve 20 percent of their employees’ time for creative endeavors that interest that particular employee. Some of the most innovative ideas have come from this unstructured time.

We all know this. And yet, we fill our calendars to the brim, feeling inadequate if we have a Saturday evening without plans. In fact, that Saturday evening may turn out be the exact time when you discover the key to your own fulfillment, simply by being, instead of doing.

Some of the secret joys of living are not found by rushing from point A to point B, but by inventing some imaginary letters along the way.
Douglas Pagels

What do you think? What is it that makes us feel the need to stay busy? Do you think this has to do with a general discomfort with being alone? Have you struggled with this? Do you have any tips to help people stop the constant spinning?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

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Four Strategies to Achieve Higher Employee Engagement

 

Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As readers of this blog know, I do not usually stay on any specific topic for more than one post, but we seem to have hit a nerve on the last few posts, so I am going to keep with this theme for one more day.

There was in interesting post over on CNN’s Management and Career Blog entitled “Exposing Management’s Dirty Little Secret.”

The tagline of the article reads: If employees aren’t as enthusiastic as they could be, it’s not because the work sucks; it’s because management blows. While obviously, this is a broad statement, there is certainly some truth.

The article talks about three factors that contribute to employee satisfaction and engagement:

The scope that employees have to learn and advance (are there opportunities to grow?);

The company’s reputation and its commitment to making a difference in the world (is there a mission that warrants extraordinary effort?); and

The behaviors and values of the organization’s leaders (are they trusted, do people want to follow them?).

My husband works in Human Resources and much of his work focuses on efforts to track and improve employee engagement in corporations. We discuss these issues frequently and agree that opportunities for growth and adequate compensation are critical components to keep employees engaged. And they are certainly the basic ingredients for success.

But the discussions on this blog over the past few days have made me think about a fourth, equally important but more elusive factor. What kind of work-life balance does a particular job offer its employees?

Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We have discussed some of the reasons many women leave high level positions in earlier discussions. But this issue is certainly not confined to its impact on women. And change will only come if we expand the discussion to include the impact on men.

A few thoughtful readers commented on the benefit to a company’s bottom line of having healthy, balanced employees. I do not have data to support this claim at my fingertips, but I would imagine that companies that provide these types of intangible benefits have more loyal employees and less turnover.

This must impact the bottom line.

What do you think? What makes you want to stay in a job or look elsewhere for work? Do you know of any companies whose employees are exceptionally engaged? To what do you contribute this success? How much of a role do you think a manger plays in this and how much is determined by the overall corporate culture? What energizes you at work?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading!

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Sheryl Sandberg’s Top 3 Tips to Keep Women in High Level Jobs

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Yesterday’s post about an article in The Atlantic magazine entitled “Why Women Can’t Have It All” written by a women in a high-level position with the State Department, who chose to leave her job in order to spend more time with her family generated quite a discussion yesterday. I would like to continue the discussion today.

Many thanks to Diana from TalktoDiana for her passion and engagement. In the comments section, she shared this TED Talk, by Sheryl Sandberg, who is the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, which I would like to share with all of you today:

This video confirms many of the statistics included in the Atlantic article. Ms. Sandberg also posits some theories about the root causes behind the statistics. She discusses three important reasons why she believes that there are not more women in leadership positions, and offers advice for women who would like to change these realities. Her advice includes:

Women need to sit at the table

Make your partner a real partner

Don’t leave before you leave

I will not go into detail on these three reasons, as I could certainly do no better job than Ms. Sandberg in explaining this complex issue. But I encourage you to watch the talk if you are interested in helping think through this more.

The first reason will resonate with most women. Women simply have less faith in their abilities to succeed than men. It is a fascinating reality that I do not fully understand, but we have all seen and felt it in action. As an example, Sandberg highlights data showing that most women do not negotiate salaries and most men do.

The second reason will also resonate: women need to stop doing all the work at home. The statistics – and people’s personal realities – show that this is an expectation which makes it hard for women to reach professional heights they might otherwise like to reach. Perhaps women need to stop enabling this reality. (I should mention that I do not suffer from this particular problem. My husband is much tidier and a much better cook than me – good man.)

The third reason really intrigues me. Don’t leave before you leave. Sandberg points out that many women make professional choices and changes before life circumstances require them to do so. I know this to be true, as I believe will other women.

I remember applying for a job several years ago. We had just moved to a new city and I had been volunteering and looking for work for several months. While my husband and I have been fortunate professionally, our lifestyle requires two incomes.

My husband and I had been trying to conceive a baby and I was absolutely convinced that I was pregnant, which is probably a subject to which many couples can also relate. I was called in for a promising job interview.

I distinctly recall talking with my best friend about whether or not I should disclose the fact that I was pregnant to the potential employer. My best friend, who is one of the superwomen described in the Atlantic article who is currently doing it all with a high level job and two small children, said “Don’t say a word.”

I turned out not to be pregnant. Wise advice from a wise woman. I believe that this type of thinking is what Sandberg refers to in the TED Talk. I am not sure why women do this, but we frequently adjust our plans based on what might be, rather than what is. I appreciate Sandberg’s advice and plan to put her suggestions into action. Thank you again to Diana for sharing this TEDtalk with us.

Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yesterday, I also came across an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Being Murphy Brown in a June Cleaver World.” Apparently, there is an entire column in the Wall Street Journal called The Juggle dedicated to just these issues. This article just confirms my suspicion that regardless of the choices a woman makes she will feel inadequate in one portion of her life or another.

There is so much to discuss here. But I believe the key is to start having an honest dialogue about how society can enable women and men to contribute to professional society, and also allow them to have fulfilling and contented lives at home – without guilt.

I am thinking about gathering personal stories about people’s experiences with these dilemmas to turn into a book. Women and men both have a lot of stories to tell. I would love to speak with high-level professional women to learn about how they have handled this and lessons they have learned along the way.

What do you think? Does the TED Talk resonate with you? Do you have feelings of guilt regarding your adequacy as a parent or a professional, or both? Or have you been forced to make these difficult choices? How did you decide which road to take? How do you think we start to shift the paradigm, as Hugh suggested yesterday? What else does this bring up for you? Do you think there is a book idea here or are there too many books on this topic already? Any thoughts on how I should get started?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading.   

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Does Anyone Care About the Lack of Women in Leadership Positions?

Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

An article in The Atlantic magazine entitled “Why Women Can’t Have It All” has spread like wildfire through my Facebook and Twitter feed, and with good reason. The article is long, so give yourself some time if you decide to read it, but it is a chilling account of the difficult choices that women face when deciding where to focus their energies between career and family.

Some might say that chilling is too strong a word to describe this issue, but I would bet that people who would say that are not 40 year old females. This article raised more issues than I can describe in a short blog post. But I will give it my best shot.

It seems that my generation of women has been set up in some ways – entirely unintentionally, but set up for failure nonetheless. Whatever choice a woman makes about where to focus her energies, she pays a price in other areas of her life. And she frequently feels guilt regardless of which choice she made.

Many of my friends focused on establishing themselves in their careers in their 20s and early 30s, which are prime child-bearing years. By the time these women turned their focus to starting a family, after becoming more established in their careers, their biological clocks have frequently run out.

I cannot tell you the number of women I know who have had to turn to medicine to enable them to have children. Aside from the financial expense of taking this route, the emotional toll on a woman and her partner is substantial.

This article argues that if companies and organizations want to have women in leadership positions, things have to change. In addition to the author of the article, who held a high-level position in the State Department, it highlights several other prominent women, including Mary Matalin and Karen Hughes who both made the decision to leave high-level positions because they could not achieve the work-life balance they needed. I applaud the author for her courage in choosing to speak out on this complex and highly-charged subject.

I remember applying for a high level, stressful job several years ago. When asked how long I would expect to stay in the position,  I told the interviewing panel that I would likely stay for a long period of time if I could achieve a good work-life balance in the position. I was the last of two candidates – guess who did not get the job?

This is a fundamental cultural issue. We must begin the conversation now. Perhaps if we start the conversation, younger women will not be faced with the same choices that women of my generation have faced. Companies will have more women in leadership positions and be able to take advantage of the human capital that comes with this. Sounds like a win-win to me!

Some highlights from the article:

The best hope for improving the lot of all women, and for closing what Wolfers and Stevenson call a “new gender gap”—measured by well-being rather than wages—is to close the leadership gap: to elect a woman president and 50 women senators; to ensure that women are equally represented in the ranks of corporate executives and judicial leaders. Only when women wield power in sufficient numbers will we create a society that genuinely works for all women. That will be a society that works for everyone.

Ultimately, it is society that must change, coming to value choices to put family ahead of work just as much as those to put work ahead of family. If we really valued those choices, we would value the people who make them; if we valued the people who make them, we would do everything possible to hire and retain them; if we did everything possible to allow them to combine work and family equally over time, then the choices would get a lot easier.

What do you think? If you are not from the United States, do you feel like women face these same pressures in your country? If not, why not? What ideas do you have to change this dynamic? How can we make corporate and organizational leaders think differently about the lack of female talent in leadership positions? How do we help people understand that there are options that will keep talented individuals for longer periods of time if we just allow for a little more flexibility? Have you or your family faced these challenges? How have you handled them?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

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Filed under Career Planning, Culture, Economy, Education, equality, Ethics, Health, Income inequality, International, Parenting, Policy, Politcs, Poverty, Relationships, social pressures, Stereotypes, Technology, Women, Youth Leadership

The Illuminating Blogger Award and Some Illuminating Quotes from the Alchemist

Earlier this week, In Blue kindly nominated me for the Illuminating Blogger Award. I love the Illuminating Blogger image, with a single candle flame burning brightly. Personally, when I stare at a candle for long enough, I find that I am usually illuminated in some way.

Thank you so much to In Blue for the nomination. If you have not checked out her blog yet, please do so. It is a true feast for the eyes and the soul.

The rules for this award are simple. I just need to tell one random thing about myself. One random thing that seems somewhat related to the Illuminating Blogger Award is that Paulo Coelho’s, The Alchemist, is the first and only book I have ever read in one sitting. Many years ago, I read the first few pages of the book and realized I had found a jewel. I turned off my phone, sat on the floor and read straight through, start to finish.

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I thought I would share some of my favorite quotes from this special book (which sits dog-eared and full of underlines on my bookshelf):

Everyone seems to have a clear idea about how other people should live their lives, but none about his or her own.

At a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate – that ‘s the world’s greatest lie.

[A Personal Legend is] what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is. At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend.

When a person really wants something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.

When each day is the same as the next, it’s because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises.

The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never forget the drops of oil on the spoon.

We have to take advantage when luck is on our side, and do as much to help it as it’s doing to help us. It’s called the principle of favorability. Or beginner’s luck.

Making a decision is only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he never dreamed of when he first made the decision.

He had loved her before he even knew she existed.

Before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way…That’s the point at which most people give up. It’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one dies of thirst, just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.

There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.

That’s what alchemists do. They show that, when we strive to be better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.

What do you think? What is your Personal Legend? What books have you read in one sitting? What books do you return to again and again to read what you have underlined or dog-eared?

I would also like to pass this award along to some illuminating blogs. I have recently found most of these and have truly enjoyed their work. I hope you will take a moment to visit each of them:

Blogging on the Bright Side

Writing Your Destiny

Real Women’s Health

Make the World Better

The Quiet One in the Corner

Beyond PR

Truth Warrior

Postcard Intellect

Thank you again to In Blue for the nomination. I am truly honored. And thank you all for reading.

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Filed under Awards, Books, Culture, International, Peace, Photos, Poetry, travel

Romance in Paris: Why Do French Bookstores Continue to Thrive?

 

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An article in the New York Times called “The French Still Flock to Bookstores” explores why, at a time when independent bookstores struggle in other parts of the world, they still flourish in France.

Reading the article transported me to a café in Paris where, by the way, I have never been. I could hear accordion music playing softly in the background as I read. And the topic of the article, the French romance with books, fit the theme.

I can’t help but feel a certain nostalgia and romance for what appears to be a dying breed, the written word on the page. I’ll admit that I have succumbed to the lure of the e-book for its convenience, especially when travelling; the ability to carry an entire library, which is lighter than a magazine, certainly has its appeal, but there is nothing like a book.

Just the smell of books, be they in the library or in a used book store or even brand new – there is something both hopeful and weighty about that smell. What will this book tell me? Will I be transported to another land? Or learn something new about places I inhabit every day? Books provide us with a cheap form of escape from daily life.

This article is about a love affair with books, and really, where better to have a love affair than Paris?  But it also explains the practical reasons that bookstores still thrive in France.

The French government has taken a special interest in preserving bookstores, providing grants to bookstore owners and subsidies for shopkeepers.

Most importantly, perhaps, they passed a law to prohibit electronic books from being sold dramatically below the publisher’s list price. This has likely done more to prop up bookstores than anything.

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My heart and my mind appear to be at war on this particular subject. In my heart, I am delighted to read that there is at least one place in the world where I can still wander from bookstore to bookstore in search of hidden treasures and ideas yet to be shared. I would buy a ticket to Paris today to do just that.

On a pragmatic level, however, I understand that e-books help reduce the environmental impact of books, as long as people don’t constantly upgrade their e-readers and create more electronic waste. If someone can tell me that physical books are more green than e-books, I would gladly change my perspective on this.

One green alternative is the model described in the article where once a month, on weekends, in Rue de Martyrs south of Montmartre, people bring old books and are welcome to take away books for free as long as they do not sell them.

Baltimore has a thriving organization called The Book Thing that allows people to do this every weekend. It was in the basement of an old Baltimore row house, but outgrew that space and had to find a bigger location. Who knew Baltimore was so chic?!

What do you think? How do you feel about the French government’s active role in preserving bookstores? What do you see as the future of books? If you are considering writing a book, or already have, did you print hard copies or just an e-book? Do you think that old bookstores will survive, but that they will become like vintage record stores or do you think there will always be a market for books? What will this mean for libraries?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading.

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Filed under Books, Culture, Economy, Education, International, Poetry, Policy, Politcs, Role of Government, Technology, travel

The Price of Slowing Down: What Has Caused the Increased Interest in Buddhist Practices?

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An article, entitled “Buddhist’s Delight” is the number one most e-mailed article in the New York Times this morning. This is fascinating to me.

We live in a time where technological advancements have required us all to become multi-tasking masters, enslaved to the pings of smart phones and e-mail. But clearly, many people seek new ways to regain a simple focus on the here and now.

The irony, of course, is that the focus of Buddhist practice is meditation, whereby people sit in silence and attempt to empty their minds to listen to the voice within. There could be nothing less technological than this. And yet people are willing to pay hundreds, even thousands of dollars, to go on spiritual retreats to work on cultivating this silence and emptiness.

I, too, seek the peace that comes from meditation and yoga. I savor the moments at the end of a yoga class when we lay still and listen to our bodies and feel the softening of the mind. But soon after I return to my everyday life, this peace quickly dissipates.

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We live in a fast paced world where instant gratification has become the norm. Perhaps this is what causes many of us to seek a religious philosophy which encourages us to slow down.

Imagine a long distance relationship, where you run to the mailbox every day to see if there is word from your far-off lover? Or disconnecting from work every night and waiting until you get back to the office to see if there is anything pressing which needs attention? Really, would this be so bad?

What do you think? How do you explain the interest in Buddhist philosophies and practice? Do you think this is related to the hectic pace of everyday life? Do you practice meditation or yoga or otherwise find ways to try and remain aware and present? Have you found any strategies that help carry this peaceful state into your everyday life? Do you think that interest in these practices will grow or do you think that this is just a fad?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading!

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Filed under Culture, Health, International, Peace, Religion, Technology

Nuns on the Bus: Roman Catholic Nuns Hit the Road to Highlight Community Work of their Sisters

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An article in the New York Times about a group of Roman Catholic nuns who have planned a multi-state bus trip to highlight the critical work that nuns do on a daily basis to help the poor brought a smile to my face.

In light of the criticisms from Rome, it is no surprise to me that this group of inspiring women has chosen to hit the road to highlight the life-saving work of nuns across the country, who help feed the hungry and provide healthcare to the poor every day.

While I am not religious, it seems to me that nuns have kept their focus on one of the most fundamental tenants of Christianity, which is helping the poorest among us.

Meanwhile, as nuns have maintained this focus, working every day with people in need, the organized church has embroiled itself in scandal and political controversy over abortion and contraception.

I would suggest that the Catholic Church follow the lead of these courageous women and consider returning to work that inspires its followers, rather than work that shames, alienates and judges its most devoted members.

As I have blogged about before, I think the future of the Catholic Church may depend on this.

What do you think? Are there any organizations run by Catholic nuns in your community? What type of work are these women doing? What do you think about the criticism of the nuns by Rome? How do you see this impacting membership in the Catholic Church?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading!

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Filed under Education, Income inequality, Poverty, Religion, Women