Monday, March 18, 2019

Why oh why?

I know there are many, many groups of people in our country and around the world that hate the stereotype they are lumped in to. At best it's a way to get teased (see above), at worst it's a way to discriminate. But the one that gets under my skin lately is one I saw repeated in a Washington Post article:

The military is a hierarchical, disciplined, top-down organization populated by an awful lot of conservatives.

The article is about outgoing Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson's announced move to President of University of Texas El Paso.

Yes, the military is hierarchical, disciplined and top-down. It has to be. We deal with dangerous situations and lethal weapons. My issue is the "populated by an awful lot of conservatives." The best case inference is traditional, cautious, reluctant to embrace change or innovation. The usual (negative) inference is homogeneous, unable to understand nuances of issues and situations, accepting the status quo and avoiding outside the box solutions. This is so, so wrong.

First of all, a good leader is a good leader. Teaching and practicing leadership is the focus of all of our professional military education. We are not handed a template to apply to all organizations and all followers. We are trained to be critical thinkers, because external and internal challenges are constantly in flux. It's insulting to say that Secretary Wilson will have difficulty leading a university because it's a very different environment (to quote the article, "a decentralized, chaotic, freewheeling institution populated by an awful lot of liberals.")

Secondly, there are 1,316,090 on active duty in the US Military (as of January 2019). How likely is it that every single member shares the same opinion? Has the same thought process? Was educated and trained in the exact same way? The US Military is made up of Americans of all backgrounds and all ideologies.  In fact, this article by The Council for Foreign Relations on Demographics in the US Military shows that the military is often more diverse than the civilian workforce.

If tempted to say, "They must think/act/vote like XXX, because they were in the military..." please don't.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Desperate Housewives Go From Full House to Big House

My friend Susan came up with that headline and it's a beaut, isn't it?

It's kind of delicious isn't it, hearing about the famous actresses and wealthy families that paid bribes to get their kids into the best schools. But as a parent I can totally understand how easy it would be to fall down that rabbit hole. What parent doesn't want the best for their kids?  I am not making excuses, a crime is a crime. And I know that hiring tutors and coaches for my kids are a far cry from bribing college coaches and test center proctors, but still...

I've been thinking about the entire apply-for-college ordeal quite a bit (after writing the first draft of this post last night) and am coming around to the idea that the entire process is fraught - from applications, to finding an edge to get in (like sports) to the outlandish price of a degree from one of the "top" schools. Good gracious, how did we get here? 

Here are some (more) thoughtful takes on it:

Pantsuit Politics Show (podcast): Beto, Manafort, the College Admissions Scandal and Understanding Antisemitism. The College Admissions portion starts at 14:50.

And on the downside of student loans and a parents role to guide kids towards sensible financial decisions, some tough love from Dave Ramsey, DAVE RANT: We're Making Stupid Education Decisions. Emmit's story starts at 4:30, the actual rant starts at 10:25.

Here's to the kids and parents that got through the process with morals and bank accounts intact :-)

Monday, March 11, 2019

Rage Clean: A Kondo Alternative

Clean /klēn/ verb: make (something or someone) free of dirt, marks, or mess, especially by washing, wiping, or brushing.

Rage clean /rāj klēn / noun: an instance of aggressive or violent cleaning caused by a stressful or messy situation.

It's a term coined by my son. A few months ago I sent him downstairs to get something from the basement pantry - the place where all the extra Costco purchases go. It was for something quick, like, "Go grab me paper towels." But this 90 second errand began to take much longer than I deemed acceptable. Had the lure of legos or something way more fun than a mom errand distracted him?

"Hey, where'd you go?" "I'm rage cleaning, the closet was crazy and I couldn't take it anymore." Thus a term was born. I was going to show you pictures of me cleaning up my craft/project/room that collects everything, but I was taking too long (talk about distracted). 

"That doesn't count as rage cleaning, it has to be right now and done fast."

To prove his point he attacked the vanity in the bathroom he shares with his sister. 

This is before: 

This is after:

Not shown: The very full trashcan next to the vanity.

The result is not zen, it's not Pinterest worthy, discarded items are not thanked. It's simply returning the space to functionality. I get the allure of Marie Kondo and her methods of decluttering, but I'll take a rage clean any day. Productive and emotionally satisfying.

P.S. - Rage cleaning your desk is a GREAT way to procrastinate
P.P.S. - this picture of my son is about 10 years old. He's still a cutie, just much, much taller :-)

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Small things

I am stalling on a work project (shocking, I know). I am mostly ignoring my Queue of Concern because I don't really like anything in it right now :-)

What I do like thinking about is how small things are making a big impact in the world. The world, as media and everyone is telling you right now, is screwed up. How many news stories have "...and in these times we live in..." somewhere in the first paragraph? It makes solving things sound impossible. 

Here are a couple ways people are doing small things - not a lot of money, minimal reward - and making a huge impact - that reminds me there is still plenty of good in the world.

A good friend of mine just put on an event that benefited Alice's Kids. Alice's kids is a non-profit that provides short term financial assistance to children with immediate needs, anonymously. Think basketball shoes for a talented kid that can't afford them, art supplies for a child that struggles to verbalize, senior class fees so a kid can walk the stage at graduation. You should follow them on Facebook - the stories are amazing. They make such a huge impact with simple gift cards,

My church just sponsored a meal packaging event with Rise Against Hunger. With this organization, a group of volunteers can commit to fundraise for supplies and then package more than 10,000 meals in just 2 hours. We raised about $3400 to do this mostly by collecting up everyone's spare change. Our group of volunteers included families with young kids and senior citizens and everything in between. You can get together your own group - affiliation doesn't matter - you just need enthusiasm and no fear of pink hair nets (that's my son, earnestly measuring).

My friend Kathy Callahan is an amazing puppy rescue foster mom - she has fostered over 100 dogs! One of them is now part of my family (see Kathy's pictures below), and there are many alums at houses throughout our neighborhood. One by one she is turning unwanted balls of fur into much loved family members. If you want an easy way to turn your frown upside down, check out her YouTube channel to meet all the pups she's taken care of.

And finally, huge shout out to this pilot who had pizzas delivered to his airplane when it was diverted to wait out bad weather. Proof Canadians really are the nicest and that life is so much easier with food in your tummy.

Do you know of a person or organization doing great things in the world? Let me know and we'll give them a shout out!

Monday, February 25, 2019

Social media = Connections = Goodness

Social media can be pernicious. And steals so much time. As I now know thanks to the weekly "screen time" reports on my phone, ouch. Although is it stealing if I am the one picking up my phone? That's a discussion for later.

What I DO really appreciate about social media is the connections it helps me make. A friend has a friend living overseas in distress. Do I know people in her country? Not directly, but there are certainly some in my female military community happy to reach out and help. Do I know the person trying to get a retirement flag flown in a deployed location? Heck no, but can I connect that person with my career field community to make it happen? Yes. My daughter plays rugby and I take pictures at her games. (It's part heli-parent, part a means of not fidgeting as she runs TOWARDS people and tackles them). A middle school friend of mine knows a girl on the team they played Saturday, which I didn't know until I posted a picture of my daughter from the game. Would you like the link to the pictures to share with that team too? Sure!

I am putting together speakers and panelists for the 2019 Officer Women Leadership Symposium (OWLS) here in DC. I would have a very empty agenda if not for the many people in my network leaning forward to make connections for me. I am SO thankful.

Little, tiny things, that don't cost anything. Just a minute or two more on social media to make a connection. So back off screen time report - there is (some) good work going on here too :-)

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Queue of Concern

I am a fan of the Answer Me This podcast - very British, random, and hilarious. For example, the list of topics for the most recent episode is: Escape to the Country (a TV show), International Men's Day, Areas of Outstanding Beauty, legal drinking age, peacocks, hamsters, Bullet Journals/Pomodoro Technique/a life of productivity vs Filofax and where to hang sexy paintings of yourself.

The discussion on productivity planners brought up the term "Queue of Concern." Helen defines it as the 3-5 things you need to get done (what an Air Force boss of mine referred to as "close in fires"). Everything else is just left for later, only to be cataloged when it enters the Queue of Concern. 


There is always so much going on that needs my attention. Obligations of my own doing, granted, but crowding (and clouding) my brain. It sometimes seems never ending :-) but using the Queue of Concern ratchets down the worry. It seems like a better solution that micro-scheduling. Ugh. 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The International Language of Niceness

Picture if you will an old school luggage cart, filled with 9 very large suitcases, accompanied by 12 people, two bicycles, a ukulele, and many other carry on bags, rolling up to the luggage check in desk at Washington's Union Station. Only 4 individuals are actually holding tickets for the train. It was at this point that we learned that luggage checked on trains has the same weight limit as luggage checked on airplanes - 50 pounds - and not one single piece of luggage was under 50 pounds.

Enter our hero, Tony, the porter struggling with the huge stack of very heavy suitcases, who literally saved the day. The 4 train ticket holders are members of the refugee family my church has been sponsoring for the last 2 years. Living in the suburbs of expensive Washington DC was not going to be a long term option for their financial independence, so 4 members of the family of 7 were moving. There is support of a welcoming immigrant community in the midwest that really would be a better fit. Left behind would be the 3 adult children of the family, all on their own path to independence (but emotions were high none the less).

This was not Tony's first rodeo, and he knew the train luggage rules far better than the staff at the desk was willing to devulge. Their "It's too heavy, we won't take it" was met with Tony's save the day enthusiasm to help this family. Did you know that you can buy boxes from Amtrak for $5 and check them, paying a nominal extra bag fee (far less than postage)? Tony did. So a few pounds were removed from each bag so we could get most bags checked. In the frenzy of repacking we managed to pack Tony's own jacket into one of the boxes. It was rescued just in the nick of time, phew!

I am not sure how plugged in Tony was to the group dynamics, but he figured out that my friend needed to get this family on the train, so he took his cues from her. I could tell Tony knew that the family was in the midst of something major, and were struggling with the process. But Tony spoke the international language of niceness. "Come with me, I'll get you early boarding," he said, as he whisked all of us - ticketed, unticketed, bicycles and ukulele - right out on to the platform. The conductor was NONE TOO PLEASED ("Who has tickets! Who has tickets!" he kept yelling) but Tony affably got everyone settled on board and then kindly whisked the rest of us back out to the waiting area.

I have been thinking about Tony and the chaos that we brought to his day ever since, because he made it So. Much. Better. He spoke the international language of niceness, something we can all appreciate.