2013 The Year of Reflection

I’m reading lots of top ten posts about 2013 and thinking about the last year. The last year was consumed with having to find balance. This was not having some idealistic want for balance, but rather out of necessity. What have I learned in these last 12 months? Well, I’m going to share my top ten thoughts from 2013.

1. Stay Healthy–this includes exercise, sleep, and eating right

2. Say no strategically

3. Work smarter–this meant rethinking my productivity

4. Make time for family and friends

5. Say yes strategically

6. Read, relax, and run

7. Be firm

8. Honesty is important

9. Unwind

10. Happiness is more important than just about everything

The list is in no particular order. I will say this there is nothing like a health emergency to force you to rethink everything. I am forever grateful to the family and friends who were supportive during the last year, as we coped. I am looking forward to 2014. I am sure it will hold lots and I look forward to tackling it with my family by me.

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Continuing the Conversation About Leaning In

Many are still responding to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. People have both applauded and attacked the book and Sandberg. I was recently catching up on my magazines and read a review in the April issue of the Atlantic and came across Garance Franke-Ruta’s “Miss Education.” Franke-Ruta notes that women are doing a great job in seeking higher education. Women are leaning in at university, but once they leave they fall behind. In short, we do well at school, but when we get our first job we do not negotiate well. I do not really agree with all of her article. Franke-Ruta uses dating as a metaphor. She explains that women are waiting to be noticed or wooed and this is different for men, since they seek out the job and feel more comfortable negotiating their salaries. Many articles and books point out that women do not negotiate their salaries and benefits well or as well as their male counterparts.

What the author is getting at in an interesting if not problematic way is that women are socialized to not negotiate well and to not find work in the same way that men do. This might explain why some 4.2% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women (28). What we might actually need is more leadership training for women, better mentoring programs in university, and in the workplace. Franke-Ruta is correct that education is not the panacea, but it is not just the formal education that is needed, but re-education of peoples’ expectations about women and men. We need better career education and mentoring all along the education and work pipeline. And, we need stop dismissing the career advice in Lean In and other books. They are targeting professional women and we need to embrace the message and not just attack the messenger. These books are clearly not for everyone–which career book is? I am including a screen shot from the article that assesses other similar books. Many thanks to the Franke-Ruta for her provocative review. You can see that these books share one major point: it’s important to ask for a raise.

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Fri Fun Facts: Welcome Back!

I took a few months off during the Summer Session and then Summer Break from my weekly Friday Fun Facts! This week’s Fri Fun Facts is about finding balance. Oh, now, stop that smirk or snort! You can find balance or attempt to do so.

1. Schedule in your lunch, workout, and study/reading time. You need to protect your time and part of this is investing in your sanity. If you have more balance–you are happier.

2. Related to the above point–do make sure that you are eating right, sleeping enough, and getting in some exercise. These are all building blocks for your health and happiness.

3. Schedule in some down time or fun time. It might be the gym, fun reading (what’s that?), and time with your family or fictive kin.We schedule in our dates. And, my family uses an Excel Spreadsheet to track our schedules and the kids’ after school activities. It keeps us organized.

4. Be organized. Work smart and not too hard. Maybe use an application that turns off your  internet access or the fun social media apps that suck away at your time. Set a timer for your writing or studying.

5. Find a network. This network might be from your seminar, department, or other colleagues on campus. You need people around you to occasionally bounce ideas off or to chat with about the insanity of higher education.

I hope that this first installment of Friday Fun Facts is useful to you. Welcome back to the Fall term.

Patience Works Both Ways

There are easy terms and there are terms that make you earn a every penny. About three years ago I was in a car accident over the Summer and when the Fall term started I was quite aware that this would not be a normal term. I tried to work my schedule so that I could make a good impression on the job and meet the needs of my students. I was partially successful. And, this post offers me an opportunity to reflect on what I could have done better.

In most situations in life we do not get a change for a “do-over,” but it’s good to occasionally have the chance to think about the what if situation. Thinking about that Fall term I wish I had moved my afternoon class to earlier in the day, so that I would have had full use of my mind and body. That term was one of the toughest ever, as by about 4pm I was absolutely exhausted and could barely walk across campus. It was a rough. I was mildly embarrassed, but did announce to the class that I had a car accident and that I would not be my usual self. I stood by the podium must of the term and didn’t walk around and was not my usual peppy self. I found that most students were quite patient with me and I thank this for them. The morning class got the regular me, but the afternoon got the extremely tired, stiff version.

I have found that some students, though, have no patience for anything short of perfection from their instructor. And, this makes things interesting. You see, I have to accommodate students who are registered with the Resource Center for Students with a Disability, have notes from Health Services, are student athletes, and the like. And, I have no problem with flexibility, when it’s warranted. Some students are a little thick to understand that an instructor could have an illness or some other issue in their personal life. And, I learned that term to just roll with it and let it go. I also think that if I could go back I would have reminded the students more than once that I was struggling. I tried to act like things were fine. I’m not going to lie, though, the student evaluation that noted, “We don’t care if you were in a car accident–keep your personal life out of the classroom” really stung when I read it a few months later. I hope that person is never in a car accident or faces any physical hardship. This is really the only negative reaction that I recall.

My morning evaluation numbers were normal; however, the afternoon class numbers were slightly lower than the previous four times that I taught that class. Was the .7 difference because of my health? Maybe. What I do know is that term taxed my patience and I bet that some students felt the same way! My advice to other faculty–honesty. Let your students know if you are facing an unusual term. Most students will understand and offer you some compassion.

Catching my Breath: One Week Post-Breathe Now

It’s been more than a week and I am still processing the magic behind the Breathe Now ( #breatheyyj ) conference that I co-cordinated with Angela Rafuse-Tahir, Janice Mansfield, and Yukari Peerless. We wanted to organize a conference that we wanted to attend in Victoria. Between the four of us we have attended business women conferences, social media conference, academic conferences, BlogHer, Blissdom, and other work-related conferences. We wanted something completely different that spoke to women’s need to balance work and life and remembering to take time out for yourself and breathe.

The conference was a resounding success from head to toe. The energy was pulsating at the various panels and workshops that the 100 delegates attended. I saw lots of smiles, tears, and heads nodding during the presentations. A common theme throughout the weekend was that it’s important to have balance in our lives. Many women spoke to how imbalance led to different types of crises and the need to reflect and reboot life. I was pleasantly surprised to hear repeated speakers talk about how important therapy, exercise, sleep, eating right, and taking time out for oneself was crucial to mental health and overall physical well-being. When the conference ended, I got sentimental and felt a little sad that the weekend was ending, but so many great connections were made.

I’m thankful for all the emails, coffee dates, and tweets that I’ve read since the conference. I learned lots about myself, my friends, and the various speakers. Our choice of keynote speakers was perfect, too. Rona Maynard and Bif Naked both spoke their truths and offered the delegates a chance for important reflection. We all left the conference energized and ready for everything and anything. I look forward to chatting with my friends about Breathe Now 2013!

Rona Manynard Rocking it at Breathe Now

I’m sharing my almost live tweets about Rona Maynard’s keynote today at #Breatheyyj. @ronamaynard Wow, great preso. Any keynote coach would say: Brava! #Breatheyyj Thinking about her comments about resentment. She grew up in alcoholic household, but on the outside everything looked fine. Maynard knew that she wanted more–a different type of life. Trailblazer.

She was part of the generation who was trying to do it all. Remember she was the Editor in Chief of Chatelaine. But, it was hard to do it all–hard to keep balance. Lots of head nodding in the room, as she shared these points. We think we have to be Super Women. This can be an issue in a hostile work environment. We will burnout. We will get sick or worse. Maynard left one job and worked at home and slipped into a depression. “With trembling fingers I made the call to a women’s mental health clinic.” I’m glad that she’s sharing this story with us today. We need to get rid of the stigma about mental illness, as it is so common.

“Say no to unreasonable demands.” Rona Maynard

This is really hard to do. People expect us to say yes. Oh, this is important to me right now. I’ve recently said no to a few things and stood my ground much to the surprise of those around me. I said no to protect myself and my integrity and refused to get bullied. Back to Maynard, I really want to read her book, My Mother’s Daughter: A Memoir. I want to read her life story, as I think I have something to learn from her.

“Saying no is not about fighting with people.” Rona Maynard

Her preso is reminding me that I’m not alone in parenting a teen. You do have to pick your battles. You do have to call a truce on certain issues with your teen. Boom. Thinking maybe a family meeting is in order to chat about things. Maynard’s speech is making me think of so many things.

“40 is a magical age for women.” Rona Maynard

Maynard shared that her articles led women to write her letters. She was motivating them. It’s refreshing to hear that she made a difference in so many women’s lives. I am impressed. What a perfect fit for @BreatheNow. I am so proud of the team of co-founders, sponsors, and volunteers in making this possible. This is our little slice of community building in Victoria #yyj.

“My gift is building community through stories…” Rona Maynard

I really love her comments about resentment. Makes me think of the resentment olympics. It’s important to protect your time, so that you don’t feel resentful. You need to keep the well-spring full. We need certain mantras to stay happy. It’s work. Can’t say, “Accio balance. Accio happiness.” You have to work on it and keep your boundaries in order to do it. And, I will be honest, I do keep the positive emails and when I need to–I will review them. It’s grounding after a tough day.

Thank you, Rona for giving me food for thought.

Continuing the Conversation about Guilt: Academics on Academia

I’ve enjoyed my conversations with Liana Silva. Her last post really touched me and troubled me. I was not frustrated with Liana, but with the truths she spoke about the ways in which academics allow the constant blurring of our work and personal lives. She made me look into the mirror and think about my work and the infamous to do lists that I keep. I spent all last week thinking about guilt. The guilty way I feel when I think about my day and the constant struggle to get all the tasks completed.

There is always a paper to write, assignments to grade, lectures to work on and other work. Then, add to that projects, publications, and service in the department, faculty and wider campus. The reality is that most academics do not work a 40 hour work week. No, we work easily work 50-60 and during the crunch periods more than this. And, this doesn’t include all the time responding to emails or thinking about the job. Alas, we do not get to bill by the fifteen minute increments!

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