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Thursday, January 29, 2015

White privilege starts with the kids

I'm currently writing a piece on a course being taught at a local university, and off the record, one of the professors relayed to me this story, which I will now relay to you, here. (It's okay, no names).

This week, a woman professor had her 300-student lecture hall stand up. She read statements from cards, and the students were instructed to take a step forward or back as the statements applied to them.

Examples would be:
"If you've ever had to explain your hair, take a step back."
"If you've never been afraid of a police officer, take a step forward."
"If you've ever had someone ask you where you're really from, take a step back."
"If you've ever had someone react positively to you because they knew your parents or a family member, step forward."

At the end of the exercise, the white men were at the front, the white women behind them, next the black men, and in the back, the black women. The professor did not relay to me where other minorities ended up in the line.

To me, this is the obvious conclusion, but to most of these 18 year olds, it was a surprise, regardless of their race. Many of the less advantage felt validated, one saying, "You know, you never think of these little things, they're just your life, but they add up over time until they become back-breaking."

At the end of the class, a young white man made his way to the front, to speak with the professor after class.

He had suggestions for the professor as to what was wrong with the exercise and how she could achieve better results.

I'll just let the meta of the situation sink in for a moment.


Ready to unpack?

Okay, so here is a young white man, who after this whole exercise on privilege, didn't like being told he was lucky. Out of everyone in there, he decides without a second's hesitation, to question the woman professor, assuming he knew better, because his whole life, he's assumed he's known better.

The professor calmly recounted her history teaching the course, and her credentials to do so (which is what women have to do all the time to be taken seriously), in order for her exercise to maybe kind of hold muster against the ingrained beliefs of this young man. It probably didn't matter a bit. He probably has no idea that he just questioned a woman in a position of power. He probably thinks (and maybe actually would have) he'd have questioned a white man professor. He's entitled to, after all. He has ideas and merit. He knows this. And people listen to him. He's used to that.

That is the privilege.

Anyway, his suggestion? He wanted the professor to have the students close their eyes as they went through the cards. It was his belief that the people of color in the room were taking cues from each other to move backward as a group to make the difference seem more extreme.

I'm serious. That is what he thought.

And that is the same exact thought we come up against on the internet and in real life each and every day as we deal with trying to educate people about their privilege. Only they're not 18 anymore, and they're not nearly as easy to teach or as willing to learn.

This is the problem. And it starts with the kids.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

5 Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat Healthier -- S post

If there is one thing that parents can agree on, it’s finding ways to get their kids to eat healthier isn’t easy. Starting healthy habits at a young age is becoming easier with better snack options on the market, but it’s still important to know that there will always be battles because sometimes kids just want chicken nuggets.

A healthy eating lifestyle can be a challenge, even for adults, but it can be done, and yes, even be enjoyable! Here are five ways to get your kids started on the road to healthier eating.

#1: Sneak in some veggies without sacrificing the taste.

How do we get our kids to eat vegetables without facing a fight every meal? Kids love smoothies. Between the vivid colors and fresh flavors, smoothies are a sweet treat that make kids feel like they’re getting dessert when really they’re getting pumped full of vitamins and other healthy nutrients. Green smoothies can have as many as 3 or 4 servings of fruits and vegetables and your kids will never know that their drink contained spinach, kale, or other kinds of leafy greens.

The secret is that if you put in enough fruit, the taste will be sweet. Peaches, pineapple, and mango are good fruits to combine with your greens. Their sweetness is enough that you won’t need to add extra sugar, although you could add a splash of apple juice if you’d like to help things blend better.

#2: Invite them into the kitchen to cook with you.

Making kids part of the process gives them the chance to see what’s going into their meals and makes them more interested in eating what they’ve made. At the store, let them help you choose what produce you’ll be eating for the week. Help them plan a couple of recipes with you. Buy them their own apron.

Cooking at home is an activity you can do together and it avoids the chance of eating processed food when you pick up food on-the go, which is full of fat, sodium, and sugar.

#3: Keep plenty of healthy (and tasty) snacks on hand.

First of all, make sure you read labels because products can trick you into thinking you’re eating something healthy when really it’s full of sugar and empty calories. Fresh fruit, pretzels, or pita chips and hummus are much healthier than potato chips, candy, or fruit chews. Keep cut up carrot sticks, apples, and grapes in individual portions in the fridge, so that when you or the kids need to grab a snack, they’re reaching for a healthy option. There are also subscription services like NatureBox that deliver healthy snacks every month.

#4: Set a good example.

Introducing your kids to healthier eating means there needs to be a healthier lifestyle in place for your whole family. After all, it doesn’t quite make sense for you to encourage your kids to drink water, if all you drink is Diet Coke. Think of inventive ways to turn their favorite recipes into healthier options. For example, if they love spaghetti, use whole wheat pasta and ground turkey for a healthy swap.

#5. Let them learn visually.

Make eating healthy fun by creating a food pyramid. For one meal a week, let your kids choose what foods they want from each food group. You can make your own chart or order one online at a website like to help educate your kids and let them see what foods are good for them and what they need to grow up strong and healthy.

Cooking for kids can definitely be a challenge, especially if you are faced with pickier eaters, but remember it takes trial and error. Learn what foods your kids like and introduce them to new foods and flavors slowly. Make your meals tasty. As with anything, the more consistently it’s done the better chance you have for long-term success. There will most likely be meltdowns and setbacks, but taking those first steps is always what’s the hardest.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Fail Kitchen -- S'more Cones

"I am disappointing, in all things."

You don't need a recipe for this one. Just throw shit in a cone and put it in the oven. Only, of course, I couldn't manage that.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Early Childhood Education -- S post

A well-educated population is essential for a country to be successful economically, socially and culturally. This can be best achieved through early-childhood education because when children start learning at an early age, they are statistically more inclined to continue to higher education. According to Cecilia Ibru, the Montessori Method is an example of one way to encourage children’s intellectual growth.

The Montessori Method

The Montessori Method, developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, is a child-centered educational approach that is based on scientific observations of the development of children from infancy to adulthood. Children are naturally eager to learn and absorb a huge amount of knowledge especially if they are in a supportive environment. The Montessori Method provides them with an environment that is specifically prepared and organized for learning. 

The main components of the Montessori Method program include:

• Multi-age groups of children that encourages peer learning
• Large blocks of learning time that is not interrupted
• A guided choice of activities
• The use of specially-designed Montessori learning materials properly arranged
• An attractive and comfortable environment

In early childhood, the Method provides activities designed to give the child direct experiences with the world around them to help develop their cognitive powers. Young children naturally learn through touching, smelling, hearing, seeing, movement and tasting. The Montessori Method makes use of these faculties for directed learning. As the child develops, he or she adds abstract thinking skills to the concrete experience and learn to apply this knowledge to the world in which they live. As they move to adulthood, their thoughts and emotional development help them understand universal concepts such as justice, equality and freedom. This is how the child’s intellectual growth is encouraged. 

The Teacher

Montessori Method teachers are trained to allow the child to pursue his or her own interests. They do not impose or force rote learning. The teacher is trained to help the child use the specially designed educational materials and observe the child’s sensitive periods. Concepts and lessons are matched to the periods when a child is most open to absorb and internalize. 

Benefits of the Montessori Method

The aim of this Method is to help children develop their potential and become competent, respectful and responsible citizens. They learn to love learning and understand that learning continues throughout life. Some of the main benefits are:

• Each child is valued as a unique person because children learn in different ways. This Method accommodates all learning styles, and the teacher guides the child in their individualized learning plan. 

• Children learn order, concentration, coordination and independence at an early age. The materials are designed for self-regulation, and children are encouraged to think for themselves throughout their childhood. 

• The multi-age classroom is a caring community. The older children enjoy helping the younger ones, and the young one look up to the older children. The teachers are role models of kindness and help with peaceful conflict resolution. 

• Within certain limits, the children enjoy freedom as they are able to choose their areas of learning. The teachers help the students seek answers to their own questions. 

• When the students mature, they learn how to self-correct and self-assess, so they have a realistic and critical eye on their own work. 

The Montessori Method helps children all over the world become better citizens and develop their intellectual curiosity for the betterment of society in general.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Adventures in a "safe" neighborhood

Earlier in the week, I sent my kids out to play in the neighborhood as I sometimes allow them to do. The roads are small here, good sidewalks, speed limit 20, everyone knows everyone. Basically it's as safe a place as we could get without my constant parental eye overseeing every possible action.

Usually, the kids come to me and tell me each and every time they are about to start a new activity or go to a new location. This can get annoying if they are in a bout of indecision and come running to me every two minutes with new plans that are hardly different from each other, but at the end of the day, the annoyance is worth it because I know where my kids are and I can go check on them whenever I need to.

Until, of course, earlier this week, when unbeknownst to me, the girls thought it would be a great idea to ditch their scooters on one side of a field, trek across to the other side, go through some bushes, and climb a fence into a farm area that was most definitely not part of the neighborhood.

Once there, apparently, they decided to explore a little; at least enough so that they became totally turned around. Half an hour later, I had two young girls burst into my house yelling MOMMY, MOMMY, at the top of their lungs.

They were so happy to see me, they said. They didn't even care if they got punished, they said. They were just glad to be home and safe, they said.

(I'm thinking it's one too many after-school live-action Disney shows that told them the appropriate way to react in this situation.)

They were scratched up from thorns when they couldn't find their easy-access route back to the field and decided to Rambo it under the fence through the thick shrubbery. Heck, one of them had her pants torn open, from a thorn or something. Thankfully there was no blood (which means no emergency room. Yay!)

Their delight at being back home and their willingness to be punished diminished quickly however, when they discovered that real life concern and redirection take longer than the end-credit roll of a sit-com. As they were doing dishes and cleaning the living room with me, their gratefulness to be back home ebbed away and they longed to go back outside and play. I allowed them the fenced-in backyard, which drew complaints, but they knew everything had to calm down before I'd let them out on their own again.

We went over the "tell me every single time you change places" spiel again, and they seemed to renew their loyalty to it.

So, today, for the first time since the incident, I let them out again, this time armed with walkie-talkies so that they could contact me at any moment. I thought it would be a safety precaution, in case they ended up turned around again, or, at the very least, the weight of the contraption on their waistline would remind them to stick to known areas lest they get themselves in trouble.

What it was instead?

A constant, every-30-second barrage. "Mom. MOM. Mom, can you hear me?"

"Mom, I love you."

"Mom, what time is it?"

"Mom, Dulce is teasing me."

"Mom, can we knock on our friend's door?"


"Mom. Hello? Mom?"


It's nice to be loved and needed, but I think next time we'll forego the walkie-talkies. If my kids know how to do anything, it's how to overdo it.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Great Gender Hiccup -- Guest Post

A Night Fury dragon drawn by my four year old daughter.

This is the story of a boy and his dragon.
No. Wait, scratch that. This is the story of a girl who is about to turn five. A girl who loves princesses, long dresses, painted nails, the arts, and a dragon named Toothless. Toothless is featured in over a dozen books, two movies, even an animated series. She adores everything that features this dragon, so it comes as no surprise that she wants her upcoming birthday party theme to center around this icon.

The How to Train Your Dragon franchise conveys something that speaks to so many children (and adults) so clearly. It speaks about a love between a boy and his best friend. Love applies to all genders, does it not? It also relays a story of friendship, trust, family, death and the art of problem solving. The latest movie recently won a Golden Globe, and it’s been nominated for an Oscar.

So you can imagine the frustration of this particular parent finding that according to retailers across the globe that 1) Items from this franchise are currently out of stock with no sign of it coming into stock, 2) retailers who do carry it decree that dragons are for boys only, and 3) girls will only express interest in the female characters of any given series, so we’re not going to bother making anything gender neutral.

Obviously, this isn’t limited to dragons. This actually applies to many other characters.

Want to host a party featuring a certain boy explorer and his jaguar companion? Well, if you have girls coming, retailers suggest that it’s best to include his younger female cousin and her pet monkey, because only boys can play here. Want to have a theme featuring kid pirates that go against a hooked captain that has been featured in stories for over a century? Chances are, you’re going to have to wade through hopelessly gender stereotyped favors and toys geared only toward boys. How about a party featuring singing princesses and their animated sidekicks for your son? Surrreeee, you can have a party if you omit the princesses and stick with the sidekicks. Let’s not rock the boat though, we have an image to maintain!

While I, for one, am frustrated with the fact that these franchises are completely neglecting 50% of a potential market, I know I’m not alone. Across the globe, there are groups working to convince corporations to stop gender marketing, and let kids choose what to play with. One group, ‘Let Toys Be Toys’ over in the United Kingdom has worked successfully to help remove gender marketing from fourteen different retailers and counting.

Toys R Us franchises in Sweden collaborated with Top Toy to completely remove gender stereotypes in 2012. Catalogues featured boys playing with dolls, girls playing with archery sets, and both cooking together in play kitchens.

With this level of success in Europe, the casual shopper would be led to believe that here in 2015, retailers in the United States were with the progressive program. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Just walk into any toy store at the mall or your nearest Big Box store to see for yourself. It’s no better in party supply shops or online. Even Etsy segregates by gender. If the big name chains and websites are to be believed, “Girls can’t possibly like dragons, safaris, or pirates. Nor are boys allowed to like any characters that sing, unless it’s a talking snowman or a prince trying to woo a princess.” With this sort of line of thinking, ending gender marketing in the US won’t happen any time soon.

What can we do as disgruntled parents when corporations refuse to end the gender marketing? While lobbying to end gender marketing has not been successful here in the US, we as consumers can keep pushing to make that change. Word of mouth, phone calls, petitions and letters are all wonderful ways to work towards gender equality, certainly. But what about groups that blatantly ignore consumers and demographics? What then?

Let Toys Be Toys suggests that consumers should not be afraid to take their business elsewhere. Further, consumers should explain exactly why they are leaving. It’s a little less stressful than organizing a boycott, certainly. But for that little four year old who still wants her dragon, and that little 5 year old boy who wants to sing like Elsa, what about them?

I’d like to offer a couple of suggestions. First, let’s break the gender stereotypes. Draw, sew, or even buy that dragon (or gown, doll or toy set) from businesses that don’t gender market. Let them sing to their heart’s content, or soar on dragon’s wings. Create your own theme and party ideas utilizing those beloved characters. Utilize the art of playing make-believe with your child, and see what kind of scenario unfolds.

I’d like to share one successful non-gender marketed story. Last month, my daughter’s preschool had a Frozen Wonderland party that was well attended by both boys and girls. They did not market the event to a particular gender set at all. Instead, they featured all-inclusive activities. At the event, the kids built snowman, explored a maze decorated with bubbles, glitter and fluffy fake snow. Kids feasted on popcorn and shaved ice before gathering to sing songs together from the movie. It was a wonderful event, and the kids are still talking about it weeks later.

It’s my hope that my daughter won’t have to be boxed in by gender marketing as she gets older. To promise her that she too can have her own dragon is my first step. To make our voices heard comes next. I hope soon, those retailers take steps to end gender marketing in favor of a more inclusive strategy.

Jill Redding is a mother and blogger at PianissAmma.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Don’t stop progressing: Keeping in touch with your career during an extended leave -- Guest Post

I’m currently on my second year-long maternity leave, but even though most of the time I’m home changing diapers and washing barf out of things, I feel I’m more focused on my career than ever. 
Keeping up career momentum throughout a parental leave or other extended leave can be tough, but it’s worth the extra effort if you want to keep moving forward in your career. In many countries, maternity and parental leaves can be up to a year of time away from work, and in the US, where maternity leave is not specifically provided, parents of young children often take some time away from the workforce.  Regardless of whether you are returning to an existing position or taking some time out while your children are small, keeping a few tips in mind can help you keep your career life warm for when you are ready to return to it.

1.       Keep networking.  For parents with small children at home, going out to professional development events, conferences, and other networking opportunities can be difficult.  However, this doesn’t mean you have to slow down your networking, if you have internet access at home.  Use LinkedIn, professional association websites, Facebook, and email to connect with others who have similar work interests.  Discuss issues that are common to your field, swap book recommendations, or just talk about ideas.  This can help you keep your finger on the pulse of your field, and when the time comes for you to return, your knowledge will be much more up to date.  I have found it useful to schedule lunches with colleagues- we choose a restaurant where I can bring the baby, and he rocks out in his car seat while I chat with my colleague about how things are going at work.  It’s a great way to stay connected.

2.       Keep learning.  There’s tons of professional development that you can work on while you’re home with a little one.  I regularly attend webinars, read and review books, and work on online courses.  You might find great resources in podcasts (which you can listen to in the car or on transit) email lists, or online conferences.  In technology fields, this is particularly important- keeping abreast of current technology makes it much easier to return to work. Professional development can take a bit of a monetary investment, but consider it an investment that will return to you and then some by increasing your future earning power.

3.       Keep that resume or portfolio up to date!  You never know when opportunities are going to come your way.  Even if you’re not ready to return to work, you may want to use your skills through volunteer positions, or take on a part time position- and it’s so much easier to jump on those opportunities when your resume is ready to go.  As well, keep your Linkedin profile updated- recruiters are increasingly using the service to find talent, and they may be looking for someone like you! Likewise, keep in touch with some potential references, you never know when you’ll need them.

4.       Keep sharing your knowledge.  In many fields, there are publications, conferences, and symposiums where experts can share knowledge they have gained through their work.  Even if you’re not working currently, you likely still have some specialty knowledge to share- and a leave can be a great time to give a conference talk or write an article, since you won’t have full time work as well as kids and day-to-day tasks competing for your attention.  Likewise, volunteer work can be a great way to give back and keep sharing your skills.  Look into volunteer positions with local organizations. You can build your networks this way as well!

With some added effort, keeping your career aspirations alive while you’re away from work can make your return much smoother.  No matter how long you’re away, you will have relevant skills and knowledge to share, and it will be much easier to communicate your value to your employer and avoid losing out on potential earning power!

When she’s not making play-doh spaceships with her two young sons, Jenny Hill, CPLP creates engaging, accessible, and effective learning experiences, so learners can reach their potential and do their most meaningful work.  You can contact her on LinkedIn at

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The annoyance of dance

Trying to sign your kids up for ballet is the nightmare that doesn't end.

First of all, never do it mid-January because nothing is open for registration / everything that would have been open is full.

Secondly, hardly any of them list the pricing, which is super important to me, actually. I want my kids to dance, yes, but I also don't have limitless funds.

Third, it's really hard to buy ballet gear. I'm going to have to try Sports Authority, I guess, since Walmart, Target and Kmart had nothing.

Fourth, I know it's super expensive, and for all that money (however much it is) you only get an hour a week. I'd like two, please. Two days of class a week would be nice. My kids aren't going to remember between sessions, you know?

Fifth, what is with "dance homework"? --Listen to 20 minutes of your favorite classical music every day. Do ten push ups and sit ups for strength. Etc. I'm just not that dedicated to my children's advancement in the arts, to be honest. I'm a horrible parent and would rather have them doing dishes for me and such.

That's all for today. Just needed to complain about dance.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Who are the narcissists really?

In the latest in the generations wars that we feel compelled to read about online, the words narcissist and entitled are being thrown around quite easily. There is clearly a large divide between millennials and baby boomers--neither of which I am. As a bonafide "we have no idea what generation category you fall into Ms. Born in 1982" I feel I can provide a special and unbiased look at the war between young and old.

Just kidding. It's the same old shit you hear every time.

Only this time with extra examples and finger-pointing!

No, but seriously, if you are not sick of the generation wars, this is the place for you because I am about to get all up in old vs. young.

I think it started around the time that guy Wait but Why posted about millenials (or maybe it was Gen. Y? I can't remember) and thought they were all speshul unicorns deserving of everything.

On the one hand, I agreed with him. I mean, I am a special unicorn and I do deserve great things. Pegged me.

On the other hand, what the hell, dude? Just because I earned my participation trophy (half the time, remember, I'm not a full millennial) doesn't mean I think I won.

And recently, this amazing piece really unpacked how much millennials have lost at this whole life thing. And how it's not their fault (and it's really not). Then it squarely placed the blame on the boomers. Which I laughed at because who doesn't like blaming the previous generation in incredibly personal ways (like they're entitled, selfish, stupid, etc. I'm paraphrasing, but still). Anyway, it's all stuff that has been said about millennials that they're just expected to eat, so, yes, I experienced a little immature joy at this telling off of our elders.

However, these silly wars actually do have a base in something important.

What we have here is a lovers' quarrel. A miscommunication common between young people and older ones. But instead of the neighbor yelling at the kids to get off her lawn, or your mom making you put on a coat when it's clearly shorts weather, this time, there's money involve. There are futures involved. There are pasts involved. And everyone is just a little touchy because no one wants to be the real reason everything has sucked for the last seven years or so.

But, like, then a gem like this comes along. In this stellar piece of researched journalism, a mommy baby boomer is disgusted with the cold-hearted ways of two of her sons.

This causes her to ask the question: Why on Earth are all millennials so shitty?

She conducts her very own (I'm sure very scientific) survey on her own website, asking adult children who have cut their parents out of their lives about that experience.

Not shockingly, but shockingly to this woman, the adult children recognize that their parents "provided for them" over the years, and yet, only like 40 percent would ever consider reconciliation. Because a mom and dad doing their ONE job and keeping the kids alive and fed should overrule all other atrocities, amirite?

The woman never goes into whatever it is that caused her sons to walk away from her. She writes around it with the skill and swiftness of a drunk spider.

She concludes that narcissism is the answer here. Her boys, and thus all millennials who have chosen to stop speaking to their poor, innocent, loving parents, must be narcissists and there's just no making that better.

However, it doesn't take an astute reader to pick up on the cues that point to Elizabeth Vagnon being the narcissist. You know, not her sons.

First of all, her experience is not everyone's experience. Secondly, in order for a child to cut a parent out of his or her life, some shit went down. Like, some real shit. Let's not play. There is not an epidemic of children suddenly blocking out their parents. If anything, there seems to be more of it than before because 1) people are actually talking about it instead of keeping it ziplock tight, which is what families would used to do and 2) people in general are learning that it is okay to assert their life, safety and mental health, even when talking to their parents. Sorry, bros.

So, to write an entire essay on estrangement and never ever tell the reader why this has happened just reeks of "maybe you should look at your life and choices" to me. Maybe you aren't entirely the victim here. But no telling that to Vagnon. It sounds like her sons have tried.

Third, her "survey" question didn't ask about support or love or commitment to success of the children. It spoke of providing for them. That's a trick question. Your alcoholic, vitriolic, homophobic mom could have easily fed and clothed you as a child. You have to answer yes to that question. You probably even loved her fiercely. That doesn't mean that you need to want to make amends with her after she tossed your girlfriend out of the house in a racist diatribe, or whatever the case may be. The cause and effect questions are not related. They are, instead, a clear instance of "Look what you owe me. I am your mother." Narcissistic.

To use her own survey instead of relying on, I don't know, actual research from actual degree-holding professionals in the field? Oh, okay. That's not all about herself at all. On her website to promote traffic? Yup.

And to continue to "write about estrangement to heal the pain caused to so many parents?" How about, find a feel that a lot of people might have and exploit it for your personal gain?

Sounds about right.

Honestly, what everyone is doing is looking for a bad guy, but the truth is, there is no bad guy. There is no one age group that is totally narcissistic and there is no age group that was not entitled for their time. We only have the here and now, and we are all in this together, and I think we can all agree on one thing: it sucks.

The present totally sucks. There are good things about it, and as we move forward those good things are getting better. We should focus on that, and on working together to forward society, rather than tantruming about who is really to blame for how shitty we feel. Boomers, it's not because of millennials. Millennials, it's not because of boomers.

It just is.

So...let's get to conquering it.

But first...let's take a selfie.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

It's not men keeping women back in the workforce

When women speak up in the workplace, they are viewed in a negative light, that is, when they're not interrupted by men first, according to a new piece in the New York Times. Women who contribute new ideas and expand upon business management information are viewed as aggressive and suspicious, whereas men doing the same thing are considered driven and 'take charge'.

Women are considered incompetent until they prove otherwise, which they do by working 2.5 times as hard as men, while men are considered competent until proven otherwise. This is the way of the world, and more and more studies on leadership and business are backing it up.

I posted this piece on my Facebook the other day, and immediately a nice guy (a real nice guy, not a Nice Guy) I went to high school with started hemming and hawwing about semantics and scientific methods and research. All in the name of 'finding the root of the problem.'

That root, for so long, has been considered to be a problem with women themselves. They're not as committed as men. They're forced to make life choices that don't suit the business world (have a family), they can't be as available as men, etc. Or, sometimes, it's blamed on the system. The glass ceiling, the relatively new phenomenon of women in management needing to rid itself of the training wheels, certain overtly sexist individuals throwing up barriers to woman success, and etc.

In each of these scenarios, there is an implication that it is mostly men who are concerned with holding women back, whether consciously or not. That we are on one team, and men are on the other. That men can support us or not, but that all women wish for and are fighting for the right to be viewed as just as competent as men in their field, should they deserve it.

Because of this misconception, we get men from all walks of life rallying up in defense of their kind, either partaking in one of the two scenarios above: ("if you look at it on an individual level, there are hundreds, nay, thousands of women, who can't commit to the job, who choose to raise families in lieu of their careers; this is not men's faults!") or ("I fight for women in my work place! I know their value and try to help whenever I can. These messages are no longer valid. So many men have come around! We're fighting with you! Stop stabbing us in the back!")

My friend summed it up nicely with his comment on the article

: "What struck me is how often the phrase "...and women" comes up. It seems men and women alike are guilty of the same thing. I wonder if there's any industry where this is less of a problem? I doubt there's any place it isn't... But why is this becoming 'worse' of a problem? Is it a particular generation of manager that is the problem? Is this a problem in other similar countries? IE: is it just America?"

Here's the thing that nearly everyone forgets: Women can be and often are guilty of sexism and misogyny. Because they hate other women? No. Just like most men don't engage in sexism because they hate women.

Feminism is frequently attacked because men feel defensive, as if by wanting equal rights, we are somehow implying that they personally are stopping that from happening. Women will defend men who feel this way, too, and the whole thing goes off the rails because suddenly we're not even talking about feminism. We're talking about a section of society getting their feelings hurt over something they're not guilty of, over something feminists never said they were guilty of.

So if it's not men, and it's not women, and it's not the newness of the system, then, my friend rightly wonders, what the heck is it? Why do both women and men view an ambitious, talkative, creative woman as a threat, where they view the same kind of man as a boon to their organization?

This intensely interesting piece, which shines light on the change of treatment due to gender in transgender people, shows clearly that throughout life, throughout careers, throughout industries, this different framing thrives. Men are simply treated better. By everyone.


Because we are not fighting the conscious thoughts and desires of men determined to keep women off their turf. Those days are gone, and most feminists know that. We don't need to defend the fact that "not all men" treat women as less-than in the workforce.

We are fighting a finely tuned and deeply ingrained notion of gender roles and gender traits in society. We are up against an institutionalized problem of unconscious or subconscious ideas about what women should be and what women are. We have ingested since birth the tenets that women are more scatterbrained than men, that they don't have forward-thinking ideas, that they are catty and vindictive, that they simply don't do the same caliber work.

No one thinks this. I know you don't think this.

It doesn't matter. You've eaten the pie. You had no choice. I had no choice.

It's not us against them. It's not women versus men. It's not men holding women back in the work place. It's not women holding themselves back. It's not managers holding them back.

It is the patriarchy. And the patriarchy, I repeat, is not men. It's not you. The patriarchy is the basest organizational structure our society and cultural has depended on for centuries that has etched a pattern in our brains as to how things should be, so powerful that our conscious and acute efforts to counteract that pattern only skim the surface.

Women are held back in the work place because we haven't yet broken out of the mental pattern that tells us that's how it should be. Writings like this aren't meant as complaints, or whining, or to pit one gender against another, or blame any one sect of people for our problems. Writings like this are meant to shift the conversation from the surface of the issue to the deeply ingrained underbelly where the problem really sits. It's a call to action, not because we are guilty of sexism, but because we have control over how this dialogue continues, and we can work together, men and women, managers and employees, to make it better over the generations.

It's not our fault we are where we are, but it is our duty to do better.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Fail Kitchen -- How to make flourless pancakes

Okay, so the recipe on this one was really easy.

2 eggs
1 banana
Mix and fry that shit.

And it looks like this:

And it tasted like...scrambled eggs with banana in them. Yech.

And the process was like this: (worth watching, if only for the un-human way I bend my elbows when trying to flip a pancake.)

And...just don't make these. If you want a pancake, make a pancake.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The woman at the door

The girls and I had just gotten back from their capoeira practice and were settling down to read when the doorbell rang. The puppy made a break for it, running right into the young woman's flowered tennis shoes.

"Can you grab him?" I asked frantically, before even letting her say hello.

She obliged, and when I saw he was safe, I looked at her properly. She was  nearly a foot shorter than me, wearing pink and purple eye shadow, and clearly freezing. She started in on her solicitor's spiel, but before she could make out a sentence, I asked her inside.

There she tried to continue to sell us the $100 book and magazine subscriptions I couldn't afford, but kept interrupting herself to pet the dog or coo at the kids. She was a nice woman who didn't really believe in her cause, and I soon saw why.

She was on the ground floor of some sort of pyramid scheme, where they sell subscriptions for points not unlike the school fundraisers. Only instead of a bike at the end of the long point tunnel, there was the promise of not having to walk door-to-door for 12 hours a day, of moving up to training the poor souls who would have to do it next. She needed 22,000 points to get there. She had earned 22 the day she spoke to me, and it was edging on the last hour of her shift.

Making matters worse, it wasn't some gungho college student full of pipe dreams and lofty ideals and boot straps for miles. This particular organization makes it a point to enlist the work of those in dire need. Those living on the streets or unable to find any other work.

They make it sound like that island in Pinocchio, all sunshine and food and warm beds. And to some extent, it is. The sellers sleep in hotel beds each night and get $25 for food a day, even, the woman told me, when they didn't 'earn' it through their sales. For the most part, though, the proceeds from the magazine sales went toward that food stipend and the room and board, and the buses which carted these people away from home, away from any support they may have had. It comes out of their commission. Unless, of course, they meet quota. Which hardly anybody does.

She has two kids hundreds of miles from here, in Key West. She wants to go back, but if she leaves this 'job' she has to find her own way home with money she hasn't been able to earn. She's stuck here until she saves enough to get out. Will she ever?

No one likes cold callers, no one buys magazines, certainly not for double their retail value, and no one should be forced to walk the streets in the freezing dark for a commission they'll never be able to get. How much of an opportunity is this opportunity, really?

She was wearing only a light sweater. The kind you'd wear to a Hampton tea party if it was going to be 65 degrees. It was below freezing, this day, even in Florida. I gave her some coffee and we talked for a while. She wasn't allowed to take donations, not the money itself or even turn it in for points. She could only sell the really high-priced magazines, and I couldn't afford them. I could have given her $20 without going in the red this month, but she wasn't allowed to take it.

She had another hour left to walk in the dark when she left us. On a whim, I reached into my coat closet and fetched her one of my older news television jackets. Meant to withstand the Connecticut winter, it would break the wind and keep her warm at least. She took it gratefully, putting it on immediately.

The whole scene made me feel odd. Should I have invited a stranger into my home with little kids around? Should I have spoken to her so frankly about her situation and how she had come to be there in front of them? Should I have given her $20 cash anyway? Was it okay that I gave her a coat? She hadn't asked for charity, she was simply trying to do her job. Had I made things better or worse for her with my skepticism, when I outright told her I thought they were taking advantage of her? Will she be okay? Will she make it home in time for her daughter's sixth birthday? Will she be able to get her a gift, which was her main goal with this magazine selling gig? Is giving people the sense and hope that they are moving forward enough validation for a system that seems to exploit rather than serve?

I don't know any of the answers. I just know that getting out of a world with no opportunities is nearly impossible, and even those trying their hardest may never be able to do it.

And I don't know what to do about that.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Addiction and Parenting -- Guest Post

The moon is high. It’s time for the ritual to begin. First, I check to make sure the kids are asleep soundly in their beds, footsteps away from other adults. Adults that aren’t me, but are still responsible. They are.

I walk down the hallway, my hands already shaking, going over the routine in my head over and over and over before I actually sit down and start it.

When I do, it goes smoothly. I find my vein with no effort, and a small sigh escapes me, even before I depress the plunger.

With the bright red plume of blood in the syringe as I draw back into the clear, brownish liquid, my entire body relaxes. It’s trance-like, watching that swath of red in the water.

As soon as the needle is out and that warm feeling creeps through my body, slowly, deliciously, and my head begins to nod, I go about the rest of my routine. Meticulously cleaning, putting away, hiding. No trace of who I become and what I do when I become that person every few days must be left in sight.

Addiction is not new to me. I was an addict for years. But I had been clean for a decade. A decade without the itch, without the whisper, without the caress.

Then one day, feeling out of control, I decided once more wouldn’t hurt. It would get me through that tough time, and I’d be done again.

Wrong. Liar. I am a liar. I lied to myself, I lied to everyone else.

For months, I justified it. Never around the kids. Never with money that could be used to support the kids. I sold other, personal, prescription drugs that I rightly needed, in order to fund what I would privately and ironically refer to as “mommy’s time out.”

I tried to lay the blame solely on the environment I was in and the people I was with at the time. But that was incorrect. While those were two huge contributing factors, it boiled down to one thing: I’m selfish.

And how do you cope with that realization? How do you deal with the knowledge that you are a parent who loves your children beyond life, yet is so selfish you’d risk death every Monday and Tuesday, just for a little bit of a break. A time out.

When I met my fiance, he knew. He knew before I told him. He was no stranger to that life. He had walked away a long time ago and maintained the strength to stay away. We talked. Many times. Many nights. What it boiled down to was if I wanted him, I had to choose. But not choose him. I had to choose myself and my kids. I had to choose life. I had to understand it in those terms, and stop being selfish. To choose him would once again be placing my needs in the forefront. Something that I clearly needed to stop doing. So, he broke it down that way. Any more needles, and the fringe benefit to life right now, him, would be gone. But I would lose so, so much more. No, he would never betray me in calling me a danger to my children or anything like that, but I would be losing what I was trying to create with him for my childrens’ sake. Something much bigger than my own companionship.

Being a parent has never been easy in the history of parenting. Being a single parent, finally finding a partner, and building a family? Even harder. And I was in danger of losing it all.

So, I did the smart thing. I did what I would eventually come to realize was somewhat self-motivated after all.

I quit cold.

Do I still get that itch? Yes. Sometimes it’s so maddening I tear my hair out and cry and scream.

But I’ve remembered what’s more important. I’ve remembered that there are other ways to get by.

Fiance has helped. He distracts me when I crave. He scoops me up, away from the places of my rituals, makes me laugh, holds me while I cry, assures me I’m not the piece of shit I feel like I am. When the sun comes up, he gathers the children around us and shows me what it’s all about and why this alternative is so much better.

And now, at the end of the first bend in this part of my road, I find myself with even more motivation growing quietly inside of me. Depending on me to stay clean and stable.

I once said I didn’t believe the “once an addict, always an addict” adage. I do now. But what I still refuse to believe is that there’s no hope left. Especially for parent addicts. We get through so much and manage to stay strong. We can get through relapses and come out clean on the other side, too. If you’re reading this and these words ring true to you, know this: I am. I’m making it. So can you. And I believe in you even if you don’t believe in yourself right now.


The poster wishes to remain anonymous.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Conversations about God from the Backseat

When my children reached the ripe old age of six, I decided it was time to introduce a little God into their lives. After all, we live in Florida. Sooner or later, they’re going to get a hell of a lot more God than I’ll ever be comfortable with. We went the Catholic route. I grew up Catholic, and when they were babies, I snuck them into my old parish without doing any of the requisite paperwork to get them baptized. You know. Just in case. Hell insurance, really.

Anyway, it seemed only natural that we start going to Mass before their peers figured out they had no idea who Jesus was; it also seemed like the only way to get them to stop referring to crosses as “x”s. Don’t worry, I picked a Mass that always serves donuts and lemonade afterward. Those Catholics really know how to reel them in.

We’ve been going weekly for a few months now, and the discussions that follow are the result of my hard work, fortitude and moral guidance as my kids find their path to their savior.

Week 1:
Child one put her hand on her chest pledge-of-allegiance style during the Lord’s prayer.
Afterward in the car: “Mama, I didn’t want to tell on him in church, but the man up there said JESUS CHRIST a lot. Are you going to yell at him?”

Week 2:
“You tell us to listen to the stories, but the stories are so boring, mama. Can we bring them a book to read next time?”

Week 3:
Totally skipped it to go to the beach. God is everywhere, right?

Week 4:
Child: “I want to eat one of those flat things, too.”
Me: “You have to be seven and go through a lot of stuff to do that.”
Child: “Maybe we could just lie to them.”
Me: “You’re missing the point of church.”

Week 5:
After Mass, the priest stops to talk to child 2 for a moment.
Child 2: “Oh yeah, I forgot you said CHRIST all the time.”

Week 6:
Child 2: “Mom, did Jesus die?”
Me: “Yes, he died.”
Child 2: “How did he die?”
Me: “Well, he died on a cross.”
Child 2: “What do you mean?”
Me: “You know those necklaces a lot of people wear with the x on it?”
Child 1: “Oh yeah! That’s a cross? And the little man on it is Jesus?”
Me: “Yes.”
Child 2: “What, did he walk into it or something?”

Week 7:
Child 1: “But mom, if Jesus is God, then he can’t die.”
Me: “Well, he was human too, so he died.”
Child 1: “Could he not have died?”
Me: “Yeah, he chose to die so he could open the gates of heaven for us.”
Child 2: “He CHOSE to die? Why?”
Me: “If he didn’t, we wouldn’t have a beautiful happy place to go when we die. It was his job.”
Child 2: “So he was born to die?”
Me: “Well, yeah. We all kind of are.”
Child 2: “JESUS CHRIST.”

Week 8:
Child 2: “Mom, where is heaven?”
Me: “It’s very far away. Like, past the sky or something.”
Child 2: “How do we get there when we die? We have to walk all that way?”
Child 1: “No. We must drive.”

Child 1: “Hey, mom? Heaven sounds a lot like aliens and zombies. Is God an alien and a zombie?”

As you can see, Catholicism is going really well. I feel confident I am bringing some good, God-fearing, moral little beings into the world. Even if they’re only going for the donuts.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Recipe - Pillsbury Meatpie

Sometimes I don't fail in the kitchen. Those times usually involve Pillsbury.

Heat oven to 400°F. Grease 9-inch pie pan with shortening. Separate dough into 10 biscuits. Press 6 biscuits in bottom and up side of pie pan to form crust. Cut remaining 4 biscuits into quarters; set aside.

In 10-inch skillet, cook ground beef and onion over medium heat, stirring frequently, until beef is thoroughly cooked; drain. Stir in ketchup, mustard, salt and pepper. Cook uncovered until bubbly. Spoon into biscuit-lined pan.

Arrange cheese slices on top of beef mixture. Place biscuit quarters, point side down, around edge of hot beef mixture.

Bake 15 to 17 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown.

Easy, quick and delicious.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Safe, Stylish, Strong and Sleepy: The 4 S's That Form Your Nursery's Blinds -- S Post

There has been plenty of attention focused on children and blinds over the years and unfortunately, a lot of it has occurred for tragic reasons. Safety has rightfully been a major talking point but if you are in the midst of putting together your child's nursery, there are other issues to satisfy as well.

Naturally, safety is the number one priority. It's something that forms part of our four S's and something that parents should keep in mind if they are putting together a new room for their little one. Here, we'll take a look at our essential S's in more detail.


It's the undisputed priority and for most parents, investing in a set of cordless blinds will be the only solution following some of the news stories that have occurred over the years. There have been a horrific number of deaths to children because of the strangulation risks that cords present and this has forced the majority of manufacturers into releasing cordless versions which eliminate such problems.

If, for whatever reason you are unable to opt for such a set, there are workarounds. Ensuring that the cords are kept out of sight, usually though a cord cleat, is the number one step you can take. You can also remove nearby furniture and generally make the window area as inaccessible as possible. However, if you can, always try and find a style which arrives in cordless form – it’s just so much safer.


Little needs to be said about this next part – and we’ll leave the decisions on which bright color to use right down to you. Suffice to say, there’s a big chance that these blinds are going to remain installed for years, so choose something that will at least keep your little one stimulated for most of that period. There are countless roller blinds which have cartoons and all sorts of other decorations on, while some parents might just want to liven a room up through bright colors. This is one of the few occasions where practicality can go out of the window, and you can let your creativity run wild.


As we pointed out previously, there’s a very good chance that these blinds are going to last for years on end. As such, you should also look to purchase something that is going to stay intact. Unfortunately, this is where things get a little tricky as while aluminum, wood and faux wood are regarded as being some of the most durable materials, it can be hard for these to satisfy some other elements. Finding a cartoon-themed style in any of the above materials is difficult, as is finding one that has light-blocking qualities (more on that later).

Therefore, when it comes to durability and strength, you need to weigh up just how accessible your windows are to your children. If they are going to be subjected to a lot of sticky fingers, it might be advisable to go with one of the above options. If not, a fabric based blind might be more appropriate which can block out natural light, as we’ll come onto next…


This isn’t perhaps the best word to use to describe our final consideration, but it at least falls within the four-S philosophy! When we say you need to look for “sleepy” blinds, we’re really referring to those types that will add hours onto your little one’s naps. As any new parent will tell you, this is vital for your own health – if nothing else.

Blackout blinds are always the choice here. They do everything the name says and create complete blackout. It encourages longer sleeps and when it comes to crunch time, the fabric-based blackout blind might just be more worthwhile than that aluminum or faux wood blind which is a little easier to maintain.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Recipe: Epic Snickers Bar, Fail Kitchen

Well, I finally bit the bullet and tried to make a 15-lb candy bar. I should have just eaten all the ingredients...again.

The recipe was taken from here.

But first, can I just say...don't do it?

Please don't.

Still interested?


Good luck to you!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Family adventure travel: where to go?

A family vacation can require a lot of research and planning in order for it to go smoothly. There are just so many choices to make and countless locations to choose from. If you want to add some excitement to your next family location, consider embarking on not just a vacation, but a true adventure. Here are just a few trip ideas for you and your family.

Grand Canyon

They say that everyone should see the Grand Canyon at least once in their lifetime. Go see it with your family and enjoy a guided white water trip through the canyon. Traverse the glass Grand Canyon Skywalk for a view of the canyon that will always be remembered.

Don't think that your adventure has to be all about roughing it though. Guided hikes make sure that your camping experience is comfortable and enjoyable.

San Juan Islands

You and your family will be sure to never forget the breathtaking beauty of the San Juan Islands located in the Puget Sound of Washington State. Plan a day of guided kayaking for the best views and experience. Whale watching tours are another fun way to see some seriously cool wildlife.

Ozark Mountains

The Ozarks have a lot to offer families. There are a lot of opportunities for camping and hiking in these beautiful mountains. This can be a simple, inexpensive and enjoyable adventure. The Lake of the Ozarks boasts the title of the largest man-made lake in the Midwest, with 1,100 miles of shoreline. Here, your family can enjoy fishing, boating, water skiing, and more. For the daring, try out para sailing on the lake. If water is not your thing, try caving in Missouri, the state that has nearly 5,000 caves. Your whole family will feel like they are explorers of yore when roaming the subterranean tunnels. Check out the YouTube videos from Outdoor Traveler to find out more.

Rocky Mountains

The Rocky Mountains have many amazing sites and abundant wildlife that are sure to stir up a sense of adventure for the whole family. The Rocky Mountain National Park offers a junior park ranger program throughout the summer. Take in some of the scenery with a myriad of family-friendly trails where you can observe wildlife, have a picnic, and more. Later on you can catch a movie in town, play miniature golf, or enjoy a seasonal festival. Rafting and guided camping trips are also available to help you get the most out of your trip.

Come together for an adventure today

Bring your family closer together by sharing an unforgettable experience while creating lasting memories.


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