A silent understanding that we’re all in this together.

It’s not all that ironic that I ended up in Boston so soon after the marathon bombings. A business trip was planned months ago and I couldn’t wait to squeeze in a visit with friends and family in my hometown. But now that I’m here, in a community just beginning to process the unthinkable, the city I love is less familiar.

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The energy is subdued, and people approach each other differently. But instead of showing fear or uncertainty–reactions one might expect after a terrifying event–I’ve seen only compassion and love. A silent understanding that we’re all in this together.

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Anger and grief are present too–hopefully those will fade in time–but the overwhelming sentiment is togetherness. People are united, the city is recovering.

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Everywhere you look there are signs, memorials and outpourings of support. Pairs of running shoes tied with personal notes and left in symbolic places. Drawings from children posted on street signs. Thank you posters outside police and fire stations. Businesses, restaurants and places of worship show support through displays and donations.

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My heart is heavy, but also hopeful; a give and take I imagine is here to stay. But one thing is clear: the good doesn’t just outweigh the bad, it’s knocked it on its face and walked right over it.photo_14

There are none of the bandwagon-type reactions you sometimes see after a tragedy. People aren’t clammoring for media interviews or laying claims to those most affected. Everyone just seems to be here for each other, connected and respectful.

The way this city has come together takes your breath away. Things may never be the same, but they will be alright.

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Yo yo yo…big pimpin,’ spendin cheese

When we made the momentous decision to reinstate cable last year, I felt like a kid in the world’s biggest candy store, that also happened to be in a foreign country.

I was overwhelmed, to say the least. We’d gone years with just a dozen channels, and now, we had options to fill our every waking moment. Mostly with reality shows depicting the strangest subcultures of society.

I could barely master the use of all the remote controls involved, and had no idea what half the programs on the guide were.

Honey Boo Boo. Dance Moms. Breaking Amish. My Strange Addiction. Hoarders. Teen Mom. Swamp People.

Is this even TV, or just a live feed into every parents worst nightmare?

Anyway. I was cautious to get too sucked in, too addicted (because that, in itself, is probably a reality TV show), but I’ve found myself hooked on a few different shows, proving once again that inspiration comes in unexpected places.

To accurately explain this I’ll confess that I love Oprah’s Master Class. I do. And while I had the highest hopes for Tom Brokaw’s interview, I was more impressed with the episode featuring Jay-Z.

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Candid, raw and real, Jay-Z charts his unlikely rise from the hard-knock life of the Brooklyn projects to worldwide superstardom and what he’s learned along the way. He reflects on his failures, the healing power of hip-hop and how he finally made peace with his father before he passed away. Plus, Jay-Z shares his personal revelations about integrity and why knowing your own truth is the foundation for everything great.

The most fascinating part of the interview discussed his views on spirituality. He commented on the fact that many of us fail to pause and see the magic or goodness that exists in the world in the simple things. He gave an example of getting a scrape and watching it heal–it was far more poetic in his words–and it really struck me. He’s absolutely right. We’re so quick to point out the negative sides of situations and things, when there’s so much more good to focus on if you look for it.

Of course I like Jay-Z’s music. I grew up during his rise to fame and spent hours listening to him on my discman (in the prehistoric world before iTunes). Plus, he’s married to BEYONCE, the only man to successfully like it and put a ring on it.

I never thought I’d be thanking him for reminding me to seek out beauty in the unexpected, that’s for sure. But the fact that his words were so meaningful is a perfect example of the way inspiration can take us by surprise.

My dog ate my vacuum.

The first thing that came to mind when I saw this e-card was how my dogs react the vacuum cleaner.

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At the wise old age of four, they can recognize that lunging at the vacuum like it’s a rabid Pekinese in not the best idea. It results in an electric shock, a mouth full of dirt and very angry two-legged parents.

Just like dogs, people also learn to make better decisions by not remaking the poorer ones. We avoid things that cause bad feelings or have negative consequences, and adapt our activities to experience more of what’s rewarding and pleasant. This evolution of behavior keeps us safe and happy.

Most of the time.

Other times, we make the same mistakes over and over again, still startled to arrive at the same results. Some might say this defines insanity; I think it’s just what happens on a steeper learning curve. It takes a few tries to get over the hump. Because sometimes we’re not ready to learn a lesson, no matter how many times it sucker punches us in the face, and we need a few tries to understand what we’re experiencing.

We may not always learn things as quickly as our canine friends, but on the bright side, we have opposable thumbs get to go to the bathroom indoors.

Well, if James Taylor said we are…

When I’m old and gray, Jim and I will sit in matching rocking chairs, covered with afghans and listening to oldies (Ludacris and Jay-Z). I’ll have ridiculous hair, Jim will wear suspenders. We’ll both smell like prunes.

Our children and grandchildren will crowd around us like a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting. They’ll beg to hear the story of our courtship, back in the olden days, and will swoon over the romantic details as we reminisce about our youth. The story will culminate when I tell them about the day it became official on Facebook.

[This is where you laugh.]

Confirming a relationship on social media was such a huge deal around the time we started dating. I’m honestly not sure if it’s still as important and momentous, but the Facebook relationship invitation is the lavalier of the digital age. It’s not official until it’s online and visible to everyone you know and kind of know.

There’s a lot of debate as to whether we put too much of our lives “out there” for the world to see. Privacy is a never-ending conversation topic and it’s not unusual for people of my generation to sustain relationships completely online. It’s outlandish, but we grew up with this type of interaction, and have adapted accordingly. A Facebook conversation will never replace the feeling of a phone call or a hug, but it provides a fast, easy and engaging way to interact with others. It changes quickly though, making it challenging to keep up with the latest features and settings. We were the first to have Facebook, and now I feel like I’m constantly behind the curve. I do not want you, Vine, or SnapChat, or Voxer. Enough already. Bastante.

As for me, I’m not entirely sure why my husband waited to formalize our social media relationship until we’d been dating for five months, and I was 2,000 miles away volunteering in the Dominican Republic, but he’s always kept me on my toes. I still remember this moment vividly.

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I was sitting in a shady internet cafe in Las Terenas, covered in dirt and mosquito bites with hair so big I put women in Texas to shame. When I got this email–the email–my heart did a little somersault.

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Looking back, this would’ve been the best save-the-date ever. (Take that, Pinterest.) But now it’s a fun reminder of our lives six years ago, how far we’ve come and the fact that we have no idea how we’ll be communicating our lives in another few years. Maybe the passenger pigeon will make a comeback?

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Lean In, and Please Don’t be a Bitch

Everyone I know is talking, posting and raving about Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In.

I have a huge amount of respect for Ms. Sandberg and everything she’s accomplished. The way she articulates the process behind her success makes it easy to understand why she’s the ultimate role model for career-driven women.

Lean In has initiated some compelling conversations around the world. We’re guzzling this much-needed Kool-Aid and waiting for the next generation of women to take the workforce by storm. But we need to iron out a few details first. Because it’s tremendously frustrating to see women laud this success story and its philosophies, while remaining total bitches to other women.

Some of the most brilliant and successful women I’ve worked with are true all stars–absolutely killing it professionally–but are held back from Sandberg-level success by mean girl tendencies and a lack of rapport with other females. For some reason, be it biology or that darned glass ceiling, women don’t always play nice at work.

A few months ago, a good friend and I had an exchange about this, and her words struck a chord because I’ve experienced the very same thoughts.

Do women hold each other back (or maybe hold us back as an entire gender) at work because of how we/they interact with each other? Generally, we haven’t broken through the glass ceiling, we haven’t made a Good Ol’ Girls Club, etc. I blame that mostly on biology, as we cannot make men have babies. But, are there other forces that we can control? Women are competitive at work, but is it always in the right way? 

Why do some women I work with perpetually throw me under the bus to a boss? Why are many girls so overly fake and nice to another girl’s face, but say the worst things about them behind their back. That doesn’t make her look professional; it makes both girls look bad. Shouldn’t we be better about congratulating every (okay, most) women’s achievements, for the sake of our gender’s success?

What is it that makes some women so unwilling to trust each other, and downright disdainful of their female colleagues? Are we just competitive on our way to the top, or do we fail to recognize that we can be each others greatest asset?

Rosalind Wiseman wrote about this in Queen Bees and Wannabees, the inspiration for the movie Mean Girls. The funny thing is, the book and the movie focus on girls in high school. HIGH SCHOOL. What about the ones who drag these behaviors into Corporate America?

Well, there are plenty of books that that, too.

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There are a lot of different opinions on this, and for me, it’s a general observation–a gripe–and certainly not the rule.

For as many challenging female coworkers I’ve encountered, I’ve had twice as many who’ve become mentors and lifelong friends. I credit them for helping me get to where I am today, both professionally and emotionally. They’ve inspired me to continue the cycle of positive female support that I pay forward whenever possible.

Because it’s the right thing to do. Because it’s easier to be nice. And because we’re stronger when we’re united. With this type of mentality, women won’t just ascend the rungs of the corporate ladder, we’ll start to shatter the glass ceiling.

We don’t have to bake cupcakes and be cheerleaders to do this. We just have to play fair and be nice. If not, we’ll continue to limit ourselves with competition and the wrong motivations.

Giving a little often yields a lot, so as we continue to lean in, I hope it’s toward mutual respect and empowerment.

Said Something You Shouldn’t Have? 4 Ways to Recover

I’d like to note that within this article I successfully: 1) Quoted an Ice Cube song, and 2) Used the names of two of my closest friends in my examples.This article originally was published on The Daily Muse, read it here.

When you’re trying to impress someone, it always seems like a good idea to throw out a witty quip to win her over. But when it doesn’t come out quite the way you imagined (“That’s an, um, different idea!”), it can have quite the opposite effect.

If you’ve ever been in a similar dilemma (and who hasn’t?), you’ll agree—there are few lessons more valuable than learning how to recover from an awkward, wish-you-could-do-it-all-over-again moment. In fact, I’m a prime example: No matter how hard I strive to be tactful in professional settings, I always seem to find a way to embarrass myself or put my foot in my mouth. And while it never becomes less horrifying to realize you’ve said or done something you shouldn’t have, don’t worry—you can recover.

If you’ve rubbed someone the wrong way, said something regrettable, or didn’t bring your A-game to an important company meeting, don’t panic. Here are a few ways to upgrade a negative impression to one worth remembering.

1. Honesty’s the Best Policy

After an awkward interaction or embarrassing slip-up, there’s no better way to set the record straight than with a sincere explanation or apology. We’re all human—so chances are the person you interacted with can relate to your mistake and will appreciate your candid follow-up. Sure, it’s uncomfortable to ’fess up to your own shortcomings, but it’ll serve as a huge step toward building your long-term credibility.

Can’t quite find the right words? Try this: “Michelle, I want to apologize for how outspoken I was in our meeting this morning. I thought I was being funny, but I realize that some of my comments weren’t appropriate. Moving forward, I will be much more collaborative and open to feedback.”

2. Get Third Party Validation

If you’re concerned that you made a negative impression on someone you don’t know very well (e.g., the CEO from two floors down or one of your co-worker’s clients), a mutual contact can usually help smooth any ruffled feathers. This works especially well when circumstances prohibit you from delivering the follow-up on your own. Reaching out to a third party will not only ease some of the awkwardness of an apology, but it will show that you’re willing to take an extra step toward rectifying the situation.

When you’re ready to contact your mutual friend, try this: “Allyson, I’m concerned that some of the things I said in the meeting with your client this morning came across as a bit harsh. I don’t know her well enough to call her personally, but you would be willing to pass on my apologies—or send her my contact info and let her know I’d love to reconnect?”

3. Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

When you walk away from an awkward or not-so-stellar interaction, it’s important to figure out exactly what caused the unpleasantries. It’s one thing to be temporarily disengaged or to have an occasional “off” day. But if the problem was something completely preventable (for example, maybe you got visibly frustrated during a complicated training presentation), you should reflect on the situation and figure out how you can avoid this type of problem in the future.

Take a few minutes to revisit what happened and figure out what you can do differently to make a better impression next time. Think: Okay, last time I lost my cool when the trainer went through the instructions too quickly. If it happens again, I’ll just ask her to spend a few minutes during a break recapping the process with me.

4. Keep Calm and Rock On

Sometimes, a bad impression is a bad impression, and no amount of excuses, explanations, orclever recovery strategies can change that. In these rare but painfully uncomfortable situations, the best way to get back into the good graces of a colleague is to simply do better in the future. Instead of spending time worrying about the impression you made, focus on being a valuable asset to your team and doing everything you can to knock the socks off your peers and managers. (Think: Kill ’em with kindness meets over-achiever.) In time, your stellar accomplishments will overshadow your slip-up.

Unfortunately, an awkward or embarrassing slip-up doesn’t always have an instant fix. It takes time and hard work to reinvent yourself and the way others see you—but it’s definitely within your reach. Be patient and remember that you’re in good company: Everyone—yes, everyone—has been in your shoes at one point or another. There’s no use in beating yourself up, so focus on moving forward, one step at a time.

Can you bring extra carry-on if you’re going to prison?

Sometimes, I have really entertaining IM conversations. This one starts off slowly, but stick with it.  Quality increases toward the middle. If you know me and my friend, who I’ve chosen to keep anonymous, this is much funnier. If you don’t know us, I’m sorry, because we are awesome.

Friend:

ru there?

Me:

yep

Friend:

want to hear something weird?

Me:

always

Friend:

im at the airport

and im looking at a guy that im pretty sure is being transported from prison

Me:

WHOA

Friend:

he has handcuffs

Me:

no way

Friend:

with two cops

dressed in regular clothes, but i can see their bullet proof vest

Me:

that’s crazy. i’ve never ever seen anything like that.

Friend:

me neither. one cop is reading a book.

a child is playing near the person

Me:

omg

Friend:

i want to take a picture

Me:

DO IT

PHOTO

Friend:

eek

Me:

flash off

Friend:

i’ll try

ok. sent.

Me:

oh wait the cops are in regular clothes? i wonder if they’re bounty hunters. or something.

Friend:

what the heck is a bounty hunter?

Me:

um did you never watch Dog the Bounty Hunter??

they find the people in ‘wanted’ posters like private investigators and bring them to justice

Friend:

oh man….maybe it is a bounty hunter then

Me:

WHAT IF HE’S ON YOUR FLIGHT

Friend:

i’m stalking like a creeper

Me:

word

Friend:

face danger right in the face

Me:

BOOM

Friend:

starting with the bounty hunters

…..

Friend:

enter man in shackles

seinfeld episode born

Me:

done and done

Friend:

i don’t think anyone else sees this situation

Me:

if your life was a tv show and not real, you’d totally be going “psst” to the cops to wink at them and let them know you’re on their side

JUSTICE FOR ALL

Friend:

i’ll just give a big thumbs up

Me:

overexaggerated ‘ok’ sign

Friend:

- ding -

wink of the eye

what if he is on my flight?

Me:

maybe they’re US Marshalls

Friend:

that would be legit!

then i could be on 20/20

…..

Friend:

i should move so i stop staring

Me:

i wonder how they got thru security

so.many.questions.

Friend:

should i ask?

psst

i got a few questions for ya

Me:

starting with: what book are you reading, officer?

Me:

Can you give me a hand with this? no? oh, you’re shackled…

Friend:

can u watch my bag a second…oh wait ur already watching a human

my bad

Me:

HAHA

Friend:

i wish this was all made up

Me:

i’m so glad it’s not.

…..

Can you bring an extra carry-on if you’re going to prison?

Friend:

for an extra $25

Me:

will they feed him peanuts by hand mid-flight? or does he go without?

Friend:

does he get shackled to his seat?

Me:

and, does he get bathroom breaks?

Friend:

someone definitely has to adjust the AC for him

Me:

do they unshackle him if there’s an emergency landing i wonder?

cause he can’t use his seat bottom cushion for flotation otherwise

Friend:

he prob cant have an emergency exit seat

he is both unwilling and unable to assist

Me:

i’m crying

Friend:

so am i

but im at the airport

looking at him

and laughing

Me:

i wonder if there’s an extent of criminal at which you can’t go on a public flight?

Friend:

who knows

im so confused

…..

Friend:

he actually might be on my flight

Me:

this is a justifiable use of the word epic

Friend:

true story

Me:

i need so many details if he’s actually on your flight

Friend:

yesterday i saw a girl walking down the street in stilts

now this

Me:

i got the pic

it’s prob a misdemeanor that you took that

i’m doing a googleimage search with the convicts face 

hang on

…..

a pic of a baby came up as a match. fail.

Friend:

lol

Me:

and a puppy

Friend:

which was closer? the puppy or the baby?

Me:

puppy

def puppy

Friend:

nice

poor puppy

Friend:

i really wonder how many other people at the airport have bullet proof vests?

Me:

and i’m just still curious how they got thru security…

-end scene-