In addition to raising awareness and funds for causes devoted to children and young adults, I am hopeful the “next generation” Project can be a place to have a dialogue about the big issues facing these “kids”. Top of mind for me, today, is women and work.
Sheryl Sandberg‘s new book, “Lean In“, (I have not read it…Is it for me?) has reignited the never really dormant discussion of women, work and making it in a “man’s world.” A couple of years ago, to the day, aggravated by a couple of stories reeking of male chauvinism, I put a little advice together for my girls, now 18 and 17. I always hoped our society would have worked through this crap by the time my girls reached adulthood. Apparently, not. Sheryl says lean in, I say:
Know it when you see it: Don’t assume every guy is a chauvinist but, if they are, it shouldn’t be hard to pick-up. Listen to the stories he tells about his wife, girlfriend or, worse, his mom. The hints will be there.
Define yourself: Don’t let anyone else influence who you are and want to be. Particularly dudes.
Be confident: You don’t have to be over-the-top running around with a chip on your shoulder. Don’t take yourself that seriously. If you are comfortable in your own skin, you can deal with anything.
Be curious: Understand what is going on in the world. Take that current obsession you have for celebrity gossip and expand it to other subjects. Curious is interesting and fulfilling.
Don’t be afraid: To ask questions. To ask for what you want. To take chances. To shake up the status quo.
Listen: Yappers are exhausting. You learn so much more with thoughtful listening.
Work hard: Some people will suggest it is better to work smart than hard. They are the lazy ones. Bust ass.
Take no shit: Men will try to bully you. As a confident woman, you can fight back by being better prepared, rational and unemotional. Nothing will frustrate the guy more than a failed attack.
Don’t tolerate women who are accepting of this attitude: WC Fields once said, “It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.” As long as this prejudice persists, there will be women who will fall in line with the gender stereotypes. You can choose to either call it out or not associate. Either way works. But know what you want to answer to.
Don’t dress like a prostitute or a dude.
Handshakes vs. Hugs; I always thought it was a little condescending that men would greet other men with a handshake but would greet women with a hug or kiss on the cheek. If guys are man hugging, fine, accept the hug. If not, stick your hand out and look the guy in the eye.
I don’t think my simple suggestions are militant nor do they require that women go against their nature. In fact, the majority are recommendations that I will make to Jack, my 12 year old son, when he is ready to make his way. Though, I’ll take out the “dress for success” recommendation and advise him to not be a chauvinist pig.
What would you add to the list?
“Giddy Up!” is my catchphrase. For a while now, I have been shouting it to motivate and support, to congratulate, and to reinforce. I type it to urge folks to get behind causes. Recently, my 12 year old son, Jack, asked, “Dad, you say “Giddy Up” all the time. Is that your motto?’ I had never thought about it that way. Maybe, it’s not just my catchphrase. I suppose it could be my motto. Now that he got me thinking about it, I realized my attachment was much deeper.
Pre-Giddy Up, I found it easier to procrastinate and blow things off. Now, when I don’t really want to go for that run, I hear in my head, “get off your ass and giddy up!” Dishes in the sink “giddy up and put ‘em in the dishwasher! Vegging out? Come on! Giddy up and do something! Damn, my subconscious is a cowboy (or Kramer, or is it my wife) constantly urging me to action. I always hear it, but, at times, I fail to comply. Over the last few months, He (or she) has been screaming at me to Giddy Up, Giddy Up, and Giddy Up! But, I have been fighting the call. In this instance, the task is ugly, complex, and quite possibly intractable. My efforts could be meaningless. I was uncertain where to start.
A little background: I am kind of a news hound. Daily, I read, among other things, newspapers, blogs, and magazines. Throw in Twitter, Facebook and Google Alerts; I am constantly sucking from an information fire hose. I consume a large dose of political news, a subject I have been interested in from a young age. I follow closely Washington’s daily activities and both parties’ positions. In these times, this news is a daily diet of negativity, of crisis, and ineptitude. Interwoven into these political stories are the implications for our young people. To name a few, staggering federal debt obligations, children in poverty and homelessness, and double-digit unemployment for “kids” under 30.
I have read the positions and heard the arguments for how to begin to correct these complicated problems. They range from practical and pragmatic to personal and selfish. Many of the street-level discussions I have listened to have been partisan and vicious. I found myself thinking that all this talk is not helping anyone. I found myself thinking you should get into the game. I found myself hearing Giddy Up!
So, yesterday, I stopped fighting the voices and launched the “next generations” Project. To be honest, I feel a little bit like I have started a long trip with a destination, but no map. In the days ahead, I am hopeful a definitive route will emerge. In the meantime, with your help, we will bring awareness and raise funds for groups and individuals devoted to bettering opportunities for children and young adults.
It all starts with a Giddy Up!
A tribute to our friends in New Jersey and New York inspired by Sam Menne, the Heart of our latest Project.
For our first three Projects, I have written a blog post sharing some of my thoughts about the Project’s charity and the people involved. I started to do the same for Flashes of Hope, and then Carrie Gowans, the Chicago Chapter’s Co-Director, handed me this video. As I watched it, I quickly realized that anything I wrote wouldn’t come close to capturing the magic of this organization when compared to this video. So, please take a look. And when you’re done, give ‘em a BOOST by buying a shirt or making a donation!
The phone rings every 10 minutes during our meeting. I encourage Mary Kay to pick it up each time. Mary Kay Betz is the Executive Director of the Autism Society of Illinois (ASI) and the only one in the office at this time. It is likely the caller is a mother or father seeking information or help from Mary Kay and her team at ASI. My assumption of the caller’s identity is an easy one if you consider the stats that scroll continuously on the ASI website: every 20 minutes, 1 in 88 children, 1 in 54 boys, 1 in 252 girls, 29,000 children in Illinois are diagnosed with Autism. And, while there are a vast number of organizations working to determine autism’s origins and treatments, figuring out strategy, ASI is fighting the fight on the ground. (more…)
When I was a kid, I was a superhero geek. I got sucked in early. My first taste was the Adventures of Superman with George Reeves as the Man of Steel. I must have been 5 or 6 when I watched my first episode. Wait a minute… I just checked Wikipedia, and this show ran from 1952-1958! I’m freaking out a little bit. Though I was watching reruns in the 60s, I am old. Anyways. Then it was Batman with Adam West as the Caped Crusader (if you’re wondering it aired from 1966 to 1968). Eventually, I started buying and collecting comic books. DC and Marvel both. I was partial to DC. Superman and Batman were DC characters. My allegiance was clearly defined by my early influences for sure, but all the characters fascinated me. But, as I grew, my interests would move from this make believe world to other pursuits. Yet, still today, I won’t miss all these superhero-based films that are being made (and remade) on a regular basis. And, I know, that one of the draws for me in the superhero fantasy is the secret identity.
Behind the mild-mannered reporter, the eccentric billionaire, the nerdy photographer is Superman, Batman, and Spiderman. These extraordinary beings hide their powers and passions behind ordinary personas. Clark Kent is Superman? Ridiculous! Though it is hard to believe the glasses actually worked, the contrast between the two characters was so dramatic that even if there was a likeness it just couldn’t be possible to the suspicious. It is this secret persona idea that struck me when I first learned about the Volunteer Advocates of CASA. For me, these ordinary individuals are revealing their extraordinary powers of empathy and passion as they volunteer their time to give abused and neglected children a voice.
For those who don’t know, CASA is an acronym for Court Appointed Special Advocates. Court Appointed Special Advocates are volunteers sworn in by a judge as “Friends of the Court.” These volunteers are trained and supported by paid CASA staff to monitor the court cases of children aged birth to eighteen who have been adjudicated as abused, neglected and/or dependent by the juvenile court system. CASA volunteers are appointed by a judge to serve as an advocate for the purpose of speaking in the child’s best interest. To become an Advocate, a volunteer must complete 35 hours of training and 3 hours of court observation. They are asked to make a minimum 18-month commitment to the program though they must see their case through to completion. In 2011, the average case was 30 months long.
You might think I am stretching the superhero analogy. Maybe, but you don’t know how many people I have told about CASA who have remarked that they would love to volunteer too, but for whatever reason they can’t. And, while I am not condemning those folks, these Advocates are doing it! They are unleashing their superhero on behalf of kids. They might not be leaping tall buildings in a single bound, but surely their dedication to serving the most defenseless among us, children, is a basic tenet of the superhero code.
I first read about Kaitlin’s Hideout in the Glen Ellyn News a couple of months ago. As I perused the weekly periodical, a headline caught my eye, “Kaitlin’s Hideout deserves support.” I focused in on the article for two reasons. The Kaitlin in Kaitlin’s Hideout is spelled the same way as my daughter, which we have found over the years, is a less traditional spelling. Secondly, the headline claimed that this was a cause that “deserves support” thus befitting the mission of ProjectBoost.
Reading the article, I learn that Lisa Kelly started Kaitlin’s Hideout a little over a year ago. Kaitlin is her 11-year-old daughter who has autism. The Hideout is a play center for children with autism and a social, support and resource place for parents. The article explained that while Lisa requests a $10 fee per visit those dollars weren’t covering her expenses and she took on a second job as a bus driver to make ends meet. As a consequence, Lisa is limited in the times when the center can be open. It was clear Kaitlin’s Hideout was the type of cause I had created ProjectBoost to support. I contacted Lisa for a meeting.
Tucked inside the first floor of the Little Shops in downtown Glen Ellyn, IL, the Hideout reminds me of a basement rec room. There are no windows, the lighting is dark, but the room is full of vibrant colors. I would learn that this environment is most conducive to individuals with autism. Stacks of games, toys, a couple of cartoon-playing televisions and a computer monitor surround several older couches and a Lazy Boy. When I meet Lisa at the door, there is a lot going on inside. She greets me timidly and I am certain she is uncertain of what I might really be all about.
As we talk, she shares many of the details I have already learned from the article. But, I do learn some new things. I learn Lisa was diagnosed with MS about 10 years ago. I learn Lisa is a fighter fierce in her convictions and desire to help children with autism and, maybe more importantly, their parents. And I learn, for myself, Lisa definitely “deserves support.”
During my visit, I also meet Kaitlin. As her mother explains, Kaitlin is on the severe end of the spectrum. As I sit with Lisa, she lets her mom know that she wants a sucker and some pretzels. I am thinking she is a big fan because Lisa goes to the backroom three times to satisfy Kaitlin’s multiple appeals. But other than these requests, Kaitlin spends her time playing alone. Lisa explains that Kaitlin, as most children with her condition, live mostly in their own world and can be frustrated or aggravated by outsiders. This condition is one that makes The Hideout so valuable. It provides the safe place that best serves the uniqueness of autistic children.
The meeting ends and we agree to continue exploring working together. As I leave, I have multiple thoughts going. One, I am hoping I have convinced Lisa she doesn’t have to be afraid of me. Secondly, Lisa’s continued use of the word unique to define the autistic condition. And in the end, I can’t help but think about the differences between my Kaitlin and Kaitlin Kelly. My Kaitlin turned 18 yesterday. Officially an adult, she will begin a new phase in her life, in her development as an individual. A new world of challenges and joys awaits her. Kaitlin Kelly will also continue to grow with her own challenges and joys. Hers will be different. Hers will be unique. We should Embrace Unique.
I couldn’t get “boost” out of my head.
During the last 18 months, I had been writing a blog, Tutto Persona (Whole Person in Italian). I wasn’t feeling very whole. When people would ask me that inevitable question, “what do you do?” my answer was “nothin’.”
Then, one day, as often happens, I had an inspirational moment. (more…)