Thursday, November 16, 2017

Round Up of Good Things

I am deep, deep in a stall, avoiding a task: going to the gym and attempting to fix a problem with our membership (which is, it's gotten too expensive). It's a combo of two things I dislike: exercise and wrangling with customer service. So what better way to continue to stall than to recommend to you some excellent distractions.

I just finished reading Jodi Picoult's Small Great Things. Wow. I had absolutely no idea what the story was about, and started reading it because it't the pick this month of my book club. Again, wow. I could not put it down. Yesterday the metro was parked at the station for about 5 minutes before I realized I was at my stop and needed to get off.  It has to do with a labor and delivery nurse, Ruth, who is reassigned after performing a routine check up on a new baby. She is African American, the baby's parents are white supremacists. The hospital honors the request of the parents to keep Ruth away from their baby. The next day, the baby has a seizure and Ruth is the only one in the room. What should she do? What did she do? It deals with lots of tough stuff, but in a way both compelling and aware.

If you need your distractions a bit more portable, here are two great podcast episodes:

The Nerdist with Jon Bernthal.  If you are a fan of the Walking Dead you'll recognize the name but I didn't. The conversation sounds very bro-y, but he says some pretty great stuff about being good at your job (showing up on time and being prepared) and being a good parent (sometimes you are on it, sometimes you completely fail)

TED Radio Hour: How Art Changes Us. This podcasts gathers several TED talks around a topic, and this one was great. They talked to two guys turning houses in the slums of Rio into outdoor art spaces and the woman who started the yarn bombing movement. But the interview with Titus Kaphar is what really stuck with me. He talks about not erasing art that is now considered problematic, but rather make new monuments that stand next to the old monuments, to start a new conversation.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Let Me Decide

My husband and I were talking recently about fake news, this seemingly new phenomenon that is being blamed for a lot. Congress recently called on Twitter, Google and Facebook to testify, as they try and figure out what to do about Russia's alleged influence in the election. With something ephemeral as the internet and its influence on people's beliefs, there is little Congress can do other than pin some blame on these companies. But I'm not sure if I want legislative input into my internet its worst, wouldn't that limit free speech? Doesn't Caveat emptor apply?

Here is what I think: fake news (and false advertising) has always been out there. It doesn't matter how much you police information, how much you demand transparency and disclosure. There will always be people that believe we keep aliens in Area 51, that we never went to the moon, and that the earth is flat (Seriously, check out the Flat Earth Society).

Am I perfect at this? Absolutely not. But I do see how often real news outlets get details about the military wrong, even with hundreds of Public Affairs professionals working to help news organizations get it right. They are human, just like I am. Surely we can evaluate what is "real" and "fake" and make our own decisions.

I like what this blogger had to say:

"What better way to sharpen our critical thinking skills that to confront fake news. Fake news challenges us to think critically about the news we read. Being fooled by fake news challenges us to scrutinize sources more carefully, check facts and critically respond to new information, hopefully never to be fooled again."

Hopefully :-)

Monday, October 23, 2017


If you are on social media in any way shape or form, I am sure you have seen #MeToo.  If not, read about it here. It's heart breaking how many there are, isn't it? A couple nights ago I was having a conversation with some friends about it, and an old memory surfaced, a good one.

It was 1995 and I was stationed at Osan in South Korea.  It's a "remote" location, so for civilians, that means that most are assigned there for a 1 year tour without their family. It's kind of a weird dynamic, because on the one hand, you are forward deployed, on the other hand, there are 1,000 bars right off base and a lot of folks with time on their hands. I spent my working hours in a windowless, fortified building, wearing my chem gear to walk to work, but also went on skiing and hiking trips on the weekends. Weird.

I was a brand new captain (out of college 4 years) and one of the only women in my work section. But it was never an issue. They were all really great guys and it was a great assignment. So it was kinda weird when at some welcome or farewell at a downtown bar, one of the guys kept playing with my hair. It was about the time when the party was getting really rowdy and I was about to head home, so I happily left.

The next work day, I was talking to someone, I don't know who, and mentioned the weird hair playing.  My boss' boss, a Navy O-5, immediately peaked over the cubicle wall and had me explain everything in detail. He then called in that guy, talked to him, and made him come apologize to me. It was extremely uncomfortable for both of us, and I felt like a tool for blabbing in the office and getting someone in trouble.

To be honest, I haven't thought about that for ages. But as all these heartbreaking stories surface, it makes me appreciate so much, so so so much, that there are good guys out there (guys in the unisex sense). Keep in mind this was probably a DECADE before the Air Force started required annual Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Training.

This is what comforts me as I think about my daughter graduating from high school and heading off to college next year. She wants to study engineering, she wants to be a pilot, she wants to join the Air Force. Despite tremendous work by so many female trailblazers, my daughter will still enter a profession that is largely male. There will be situations that won't be great, where she might be a target for being female. But I hope and I pray that the more we talk about it, the more people will be aware of the bad guys out there, and the more likely there will be good guys there when she needs one.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Finish: A Quick Book Review

I am not even finished reading this book - ha ha - but wanted to share how much I am enjoying it. I rarely read non-fiction, because reading to me is my greatest escape, but I enjoy the writing of Jon Acuff. Since I have a couple goals that I can't seem to complete, the book seemed like a good place to start for some inspiration.

Have you ever heard, "Perfectionism is the enemy of good enough"? I use that all the time. Does the color of the font on the slide really matter if it's due tomorrow and it's 6pm? Does home baked or store bought matter if the band concert is in 2 hours and A's through M's have to bring cookies? (side note: the kids really like those neon frosted sugar cookies from the grocery store better anyway :-))

This concept is the crux of one of the chapters on getting to finish:

"The only way to accomplish a new goal is to feed it your most valuable resource: time. And what we never like to admit is that you don't just give time to something, you take it from something else. To be good at one thing you have to be bad at something else. Perfectionism's third lie is 'You can't do it all.' I'm here to tell you that you can't."

"You only have two options right now. 1. Attempt more than is humanly possible and fail. (editor's note: done it) 2. Choose what to bomb and succeed at a goal that matters."

I feel like I practice this, kind of.  But I need to be more deliberative. Sometimes things get bombed regularly because I let it fall off of my plate (gym, vegetables....).

Thinking about this concept has made me appreciate even more three awesome groups of fabulous ladies in my life. With them I can "bomb" and it's totally okay. I belong to a book club, a bible study, and a writing group. They all meet only once a month, sometimes less. And what's awesome about all three of these very different groups is that you are welcome even if you didn't read the book, do the next chapter of the study, or write a single new page. It's an accomplishment just to meet regularly, the rest is gravy. I am so thankful!  

Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done is available on Amazon and as an audio book.

p.s. - this is not a paid review :-)

Thursday, October 5, 2017

What to say, what to do...

Oh man. The details coming out to Las Vegas are heart breaking. Seeing some of the initial posts saying "sending thoughts and prayers" reminded me that I often respond that way also. Is it too pat a response, too trite?  I mean it completely sincerely, because anyone I know (or know of) in distress for any reason is truly in my thoughts and prayers. It's shorthand for what I really want to say and don't necessarily want to blast out on social media: "I am so sorry for your loss, for your pain; I wish I could make it go away, that I could return things to how they should be; I'm frustrated that I can't."

I was turning these thoughts over in my head, thinking about how to write about this, and the very next day came across this article in the Washington Post, "Why Thoughts and Prayers Is Starting to Sound So Profane." What?  In a mere 24 hours "thoughts and prayers" is now pejorative, a meme, something to be mocked?

Check out "The Battle of Guns Vs Thoughts and Prayers"; "Thoughts and Prayers Are Not Enough"; "How Thoughts and Prayers Became the Stock Phrase of Tragedies"; and "In Times of Crisis What Do We Really Mean By Thoughts and Prayers?" which says: "The phrase "thoughts and prayers" has received a lot of well-deserved mocking lately."

Is it deserved? Sometimes when people use the phrase, it's what they actually mean to say. Ugh.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Cool Kids Club

I read an awesome article in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week about the American Legion in Hollywood, CA. It's a great story of "modern vets" helping reshape a long standing veteran association to fit them, and by doing so, adding members to an organization that was slowly dying.  This years new members number over 200, last year only 19 new members were inducted.

"The young guns who have seized control of American Legion Post 43 are trying to fuse them together in the minds of a new generation of combat veterans, rebranding their venerable Egyptian Revival building, with its underground Art Deco bar, as “the coolest private club in Hollywood.”
“We have the cheapest drinks, the nicest people, the best-looking bar,” says Post Commander Fernando Rivero, a 42-year-old TV producer who engineered a bloodless coup that overthrew Post 43’s old guard.
The new post commander said something that really stuck out to me. When attending a California Legion convention, he noticed the program mostly featured ads for hospices and cemeteries. "You realize your advertisers are branding you?"  

This is my problem with MOAA's magazine, Military Officer.  It's full of really great articles on their advocacy efforts that support both vets and active duty, but what sticks out are all the ads for retirement communities. Gah! I am instantly turned off.  

I am hugely excited by the efforts at the Hollywood American Legion and awesome programs like Battle Tested Veterans (Sharing Stories, Not Stereo Types) that I have written about before. There are lots of amazing vets out there doing great things for our world, and I am hopeful that the traditional veterans organizations are ready to evolve with them.  

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Decisions, decisions

An amazing young woman wrote a post to the Air Force women officer's forum I am a member of on Facebook.  She's at a dream location, and because she is single, it's a 1 year assignment (bear with me my civilian readers...).  She wants to extend a year, partly because of the awesome location, but partly because she sees there are ways she can contribute and make things better. She has appealed to trusted mentors, who all agreed the timing for future moves would get thrown off by this 1 year extension. I disagree, 1000% (it's ONE YEAR in a lifetime of being an adult!), and commented so, and was pleasantly surprised to see several other commenters agreeing to "go with her heart."

These kinds of dilemmas happen in real life ALL, THE. DANG. TIME., don't they? So annoying!

Don't do XXX with your kids, it could ruin/spoil/delay them, or conversely, "You mean you haven't done XXX for your kids?" Don't live there, move there, buy that, eat that, wear that...instead it's better if you do XXXXXxxxxx....gah!

When your family, friends, trusted advisors, or just strangers online think you should do one thing, while your heart says to do the opposite, it's hard. They are all (hopefully) looking out for your best interests, but no one can possibly know how it, whatever it is, will turn out. There are a zillion unknown variables that will come in to play.

Please don't take this as permission to do something truly crazy or dangerous, but rather an appeal to go with your heart, run with it, and you might be surprised how things turn out.