Monday, August 19, 2019

Lose Yourself (aka Recommended Reads)

It's been a weirdly busy month for my family, opposite of the usual late summer quiet. Diving into my kindle is how I deal with lots of travel and a busy mind, the best way I know to pass the time and relax. You could pick something from the list of this kinda famous guy, but here are some fun summer reads that I've enjoyed:

The Wedding Party is the third book I've read from Jasmine Guillory - The Wedding Date and The Proposal were just as awesome and some of the characters are connected between the three books. Her characters are lively, diverse and woke, and it's great that they reappear so I can "keep in touch."

Evvie Drake Starts Over is the first work of fiction by NPR's Linda Holmes. She is also behind one of my reliably favorite podcasts, Pop Culture Happy Hour. The story involves a widow and a baseball player, in a charming town in Maine, and it's so much deeper than that sounds.

The Kiss Quotient was such a fun story, made even better because the romantic lead is autistic, the other has a deep dark mystery in his past, and has lots of crazy characters in his large Vietnamese family. If you listen to Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me, you'll recognize Helen Hoang.  She has another book, The Bride Test, with some of the same great characters, but I liked The Kiss Quotient better.

I have read everything, EVERYTHING, that Jennifer Weiner has written, and I loved her latest book, Mrs Everything. It follows two sisters from 1950s suburbia through college, marriages, kids, and SO MUCH HISTORY. It's a whole series of books in one, and I loved it. You should also check out her latest NYT column, The Abrupt End to My Big Girl Summer. A (shorter) must read.

So my one more "literary" reads this summer was Fleishman is in Trouble. You can tell it's "serious fiction" by the subdued colors, so different from the covers above. I like stories to come to a conclusion, and this one doesn't. It definitely morphs from one viewpoint to another in a surprising way. Funnily enough, it was reading the article  Stop Calling Women Nags, that has made me rethink my original opinion, so I get this book much more. 

Got any good book recommendations for me? Just...

(get this cool shirt here)

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Non-linear = Success

(an oldie but a goodie from this post)

I love learning and hearing about leadership and mentorship, and happily accepted an invitation to attend the DC Women's Leadership Summit a couple weeks ago. Since I co-chair a leadership symposium for military women, I thought it would be interesting to see a civilian take. It was great! It's amazing how universal the concepts of resilience, mentorship, leadership and balance are across all facets of work.  

Monica Schmude from CIGNA had a great presentation on Women in Leadership, a study commissioned by her company. Emerging from the study was the theme that "Career progression is a jungle gym. More than 8 in 10 female business leaders agree that career progression isn't, and shouldn't be, thought of as linear." (see helpful graphic, not from the study, above)

This confirms a long time theory that I have - that anyone who lays out a career plan for you with incremental steps, in a single path, is not to be trusted. Who can know all the ups and downs and jinks left and right that the world, your work, and your personal life can take? No one. NO ONE. And who's to say that that single path is the path that you will find fulfilling anyway? 

Monica shared another interesting fact about the speed of information right now. Whatever knowledge you attain to be relevant now, only 50% of that knowledge will apply in 5 years, and in 10 years, current knowledge will be obsolete. OUCH. That was my first response. My second thought was, "Hey, I can go do something new and can catch up." 

Soft skills (leadership, mentorship, resilience) will always transfer, but specific industry knowledge - that's open for anyone. Nuclear engineering, here I come - hah!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Celebration, Patriotism and Protest

It's been close to two weeks since the USWNT won against the Netherlands, bringing home their 4th World Cup victory. I am completely biased about the USWNT and this team in particular (see here, here, and here) and loved having the opportunity to see them play. There are some strong personalities on the team, which might not be your cup of tea, but I appreciate that they are using this moment (and it will be just a moment) to push forward on equality in their sport. 

What I find bothersome is some of the talk that the team is being unpatriotic, ungrateful, even un-American because they are calling out what they see as unfair at the same time they are collecting accolades and awards. I admit that I have had similar thoughts, that it's disingenuous for an individual that is well paid and enjoying fame to complain. They have it made right?

Listening to a completely unrelated pod cast (It's Been a Minute) on Millennials and Money put something into words that fits this case too. One of the millennials interviewed said she covers up the fact that her parents are funding her attendance at graduate school because she doesn't want to seem privileged. As the podcast went on, they came around to the thought that hiding privilege isn't necessarily the answer, but rather acknowledging privilege and using it to do further good in the world would be better in the long run. Isn't that our obligation as Americans also? To use our enormous privilege to make our country and the world a better place?

Full of bravado and celebrating every moment - hell yes, says the USWNT. But ungrateful and unpatriotic?  I may or may not agree with their form of protest or the issues they advocate for, but I am SO PROUD of them for speaking up.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Are You Authorized?

The further I get from active duty life, the more blank looks I get when I use a term that seems completely natural to me, but garners a blank look. Is your fun meter pegged? Are you running the mill around checklist? Do you have the hand receipt?  My friend Jan said she got a funny reaction when she told a fellow mom she was "authorized." To anyone from the military, it means you have permission, go do that. To a civilian it probably sounds more formal, like there are a lot more rules involved.  This same friend caught me in church once doing this to my then wiggly toddler son, who was up front for choir or children's sermon or something.

I am working on a dream project, a book, a complete work of fiction. Of course my protagonist is a smart, sassy women who is a veteran.  Although my book is not set in the military per say, the lingo creeps in there. It's so awesome to have fellow writers in my writing group reviewing my work that have completely different backgrounds. Our discussion on what I meant by "tactical backpack" was hilarious and still makes me smile. If it passes their test, then I know that it will make sense to everyone. Now if only I would just finish the dang thing...

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Being Authentic, the Lesson I Would Give My 20-something Self

A couple summers ago we decided to watch the entire series of Fast and Furious movies. We're in to high culture like that. Which is how I became a fan of The Rock. Start following him on Insta and you'll fall for him too. Maybe it's all show, but he seems like a genuinely nice guy, and 100% totally himself.

A recent speech he made at the MTV Movie and TV Awards put in to words something I believed but didn't always have confidence in:

"The most powerful thing we can be is ourselves... And yes it's important to be yourself but you gotta recognize the joy and the responsibility of bringing everybody with you. We bring everybody with us, and you do that by being kind, by being compassionate, by being inclusive, and straight-up just being good people because that matters."

I wish I could go back to my 20-something self and say, "You are at your best when you are who you are, when you do what you love: taking care of people and watching them do great things. You are NOT at your best when you are trying to be louder, harder, outwardly aggressive, tough or some other adjective 'they' say you should be."  

I wish I could have said, "Sometimes people won't get you, and that's okay." I wish I could have ignored the startled looks I often got from my Air Force supervisors and leadership when I was being goofy and cracking jokes, and asking, "So why do we do this?" when it didn't make sense to me, or asking if we could have some fun like wear costumes for a Halloween party at a deployed location (the resulting party was epic, awesome, and fueled only by non-alcoholic beer). 

I got there, eventually. But for everyone else on a journey you are passionate about, but don't 100% fit the usual expectations, rock on. Be you. The right people will figure out you're awesome, eventually.

You can read the text of the short speech here, or watch it below.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Celebrating Goals and the USWNT

My daughter and I are here in France to see women's World Cup soccer, and were at the epic 13-0, record breaking US victory against Thailand. It was incredible to be there.

My mom was watching from home and texted about some of the commentators saying that the US team was celebrating too much and "running up the score." The social media backlash/support started before the game ended and was pretty epic. Of course "we" can't be happy, even in victory. I have thoughts on this (of course).

At the game, my daughter and I cheered wildly for every US goal but completely commiserated with the Thai team. Vicariously through my daughter I have been on both sides of a game like this. She's played on teams that were state champs. She's also played a rugby game that ended 0-154. That's not a typo - one hundred and fifty four points scored against them. When the team that is killing you scores yet again and celebrates, it can feel like they are really rubbing your nose in it. I get that, but...

Setting aside the vagaries of FIFA-level soccer (goal differential as tie breaker, limit of 3 subs, distribution of bids among regions), I don't think the US teams' celebration and epic number of goals was ever meant to be hurtful. I think it was more about relief.

Yes, relief. Can you imagine the pressure the US team is under? Returning champions. Leaders in their field, a very male dominated field. Fighting publicly and with great risk to their standing with US Soccer and FIFA for equal pay. A fight that is being watched very carefully by women's teams around the world (see this great commentary by Sally Jenkins of WaPo). The team is a mix of veteran players but also rookies stepping on to the first World Cup field - how did they keep the nerves at bay? 

I can easily equate this to the women who were the firsts in the military - first to attend academies, fly fighters, graduate from Ranger school - under a microscope while also wanting to just be treated like everyone else. I can imagine that the fist pumps and smiles as they got their commissions, got their wings, got their tab, were exactly like the USWNT.  Phew!

We have one more chance to see the US team before we head home, back to the real world. I can't think of a better way to spend our last night in Paris.

Note: If you need a tutorial to better understand soccer, please watch this, you will not regret it.

Extra special note: Buckets full of love and appreciation to my awesome husband who unconditionally supports our travel adventures. He is the best!

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Wolfpack Motivation

I am a longtime fan of all things US Women's National Team, especially the OG of GOATs, Abby Wombach. She's the ALL TIME leading scorer in international soccer, men and women. So it was a no brainer to pick up her book, Wolfpack, her "empowering rally cry for women to unleash their individual power, unite with their pack, and emerge victorious together." Ker-pow! Was it ever!

I've seen a lot of posts lately asking about gifts and good advice to give to new graduates, and this is it. But it also is great for any women at any season of their life. Here are a just a few highlights (of many):

"A champion never allows a short-term failure to take her out of the long-term game. A women who doesn't give up can never lose."

"Real leaders don't mimic a cultural construct of what a leader looks, sounds, and acts like. They understand that there are as many authentic ways to lead as there are people."

"The most important thing I've learned is what you do will never define you for long. Who you are always will."

It's a pretty quick read, actually an expansion of this speech she gave at Barnard College.  I highly, HIGHLY, recommend it.