Lessons Learned & Random Ramblings

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The Boomerang Project – You Get Back What You Give April 25, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kate @ 7:40 pm

I recently got back from a 4 day training put together by The Boomerang Project (http://www.boomerangproject.com/) and felt compelled to share some of the things I learned. The training was for a middle school program called WEB (Where Everybody Belongs) which is a program that teams 8th grade students with incoming 6th graders to help with the transition to middle school. It encourages friendship, role modeling, compassion, empathy and seeks to increase self-esteem and positive decision making. Of all the trainings I have attended (and believe me, I attend ALOT!) this was the most creative and inspiring and a few important thing have really stuck with me.

The Boomerang Project and WEB have three principles that guide their work: 1. “Yes, and” 2. “GO BIG!” and 3. “Total Support”.

I find myself thinking about these three ideas in the days since the training and attempting to incorporate them into my daily life – both personally and professionally.

The principles are this:

(1) “Yes, and” — we negate good things we say to others and to ourselves when we use the word “but”. For example, when we think to ourselves “this dress looks great on me but I could still stand to lose 5 pounds” or “I really felt like I nailed that presentation but I still need to work on my pitch”. Worse, when we say to a friend “I love your new boyfriend/dog/coworker/outfit but are you sure it is right for you?” We essentially erase everything we said before the but in all of these statements. The idea of “yes, and” is that we can always answer yes to someone – we can validate their opinions or emotions (even if we disagree!) and then respond with something that is empathetic or understanding. For example, if a friend says “I feel like I look fat in this outfit” you can say “yes, and I think you look beautiful”. Or, if a coworker, or in my case a middle school student, says “This class/program/task sucks”, the response can be “Yes, and you are doing a great job of following through.” I struggle with ways to always find a “Yes, and” but the theory is a good one — we have a choice in how we respond to the things people say to us and we might as well find a way that makes ourselves and others feel better instead of worse.

(2) GO BIG! – This one I like the most – the idea of putting it out there, going for it, making it happen. Go Big implies taking the chance on whatever it is you like, you want, you are participating in and not doing things half-assed. If you are going to throw a gathering for friends, go all out. If you are going to splurge on dessert, make sure it is exactly the dessert that makes you happy. If you are going to choose a day to play hooky and enjoy the spring sunshine, spend that day doing whatever it is that epitomizes the perfect spring day to you. Take a chance, be passionate and dream big!

(3) Total support – I love this idea too. Give unconditional and total support to the people in your life that matter to you. If someone else is “going big” on an idea, initiative or activity that is important to them, show them your total support – be their cheerleader, their sounding board, their whatever they need to make things possible. If you are taking a chance on something, make it count and ask for total support from the people that matter to you.

Obviously, these are my interpretations – my definitions — of these principles based on the training and on my thoughts since. I think they are a pretty good representation of real life applications of the ideas. I wish all of you good luck going big and I offer all of you my total support!


In support of Barack Obama April 14, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kate @ 6:43 pm

So, I have to admit it. I am a HUGE Barack Obama fan. I am just incredibly inspired by him and I feel that he offers our country a much needed sense of hope. I hold a BA in Government and an MA in Women’s Studies – I am educated, politically involved, passionate about issues concerning women’s rights, stem cell research, gay rights, health care reform and much more. I am very proudly a liberal, a feminist, and a democrat.
I am not naive or easily swayed by Obama’s eloquence. I believe in him and I believe that he believes in what he says and what he believes he can accomplish. Perhaps even more important, I believe in the vision he has for our country. I believe in the sense of hope and possibility that he seeks to provide.

I recently did an activity with my middle school students provided by Teaching Tolerance which was called “Do Identities Rule?”. (Great site by the way — www.teachingtolerance.org) The idea of the activity was to illustrate the differences between our individual beliefs and the beliefs that pundits think we should have based on our gender, race, ethnicity, party affiliation and religion. Out of the 15 of us that participated in the activity, none of us were supporting the candidate that the pundits dictated that we should. I, as a white woman, was only supposed to support Hilary Clinton. Most of the white boys in the room were “supposed” to support McCain. Based on the pundits requirements and the identity characteristics of the students, no one participating was “supposed” to support Obama. Ironically, 13 of the 15 participants were supporting Barack, the other two – both boys – were supporting Clinton.

Kate Michelman, a well-known feminist, was criticized for supporting Barack Obama instead of Hilary Clinton and accused of turning her back on the women’s movement. Her response was incredibly thought-provoking. She said: “The women’s movement is about free choice, self-determination and challenging a status quo that fails a lot of Americans, not just women. And it is not about going along. It’s about transcending, about having the freedom to follow one’s heart, about creating and pursuing new opportunities, and about the American dream being for all Americans.”
I think that Michelman is right. I think that her quote, and the results of our activity, speak to the inaccuracies of politic pundits, of assumptions based on qualities like race, religion, etc. I believe that the “supposed to” rules erase our right to personal opinions, passions, etc. As an educated white woman, I am “supposed” to support Clinton. I have nothing against her but I also don’t feel moved by her words, I am not inspired by her, I am not excited by the possibility of positive change and I am not filled with a sense of hope. When I listen to Barack Obama — and when I read both of his books – I do feel these things.
The link below is to the will.i.am video based on Barack Obama’s victory speech after the New Hampshire primary. When I look at the people of all different races, genders, ethnicity, backgrounds, etc. that have come together because of their belief in possibilities, their sense of hope. The video, and Barack’s words, illustrate for me the very best of who we are and who we can become — as individuals, as communities and as a nation.
Please watch it — listen to Barack Obama’s words — and hopefully you will also find hope!

Inspired… April 11, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kate @ 5:38 pm

I get quotes by email from The Foundation for a Better Life — a really great site that has offered pretty awesome resources for my youth groups. The site is http://www.forbetterlife.org/ if you are interested in checking it out. Anyways, for a variety of reasons, the one that they sent out today was particularly moving and I wanted to share it…enjoy!
“Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Appreciate your friends. Continue to learn. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.” —Mary Anne Radmacher, author

"Five Things I Can’t Live Without"

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kate @ 1:25 pm

I recently read the book “Five Things I Can’t Live Without” by Holly Shumas. I do A LOT of reading and I enjoy most of the books that I read. This particular book was not the most amazingly well written book, nor was it telling a story that was remarkably groundbreaking. However, unlike a lot of the books that I read, the story stayed with me and I found myself thinking about it long after I finished the last page. The author told the story with an honesty, kindness and authenticity that made me think – not just about the “five things” the characters found meaning in but about the five things that I can’t live without.
So, here is my list:
1. LOVE: While I am definitely referring specifically to my wonderful relationship with my boyfriend, I am also referring in general to the amazing feeling of love — of being in love with someone, of loving the things that matter to you, of being loved.
2. MY FRIENDS & FAMILY: Without people to ground you when you are feeling lost, to celebrate your successes, to comfort you when you just need to cry, to laugh with you and to be your best listener/biggest cheerleader/most honest critic, etc. life would be far too empty. Specifically, my sister, my girlfriends and my immediate family have tremendous impact on my life but I am also grateful for the coworker that always encourages me, the cousin I don’t see very often but I know will always be there when I need her and the old friend who sends emails that always make me smile.

3. PILATES: There is something incredible about finding balance in your life — for me, pilates provides that in a way that is both challenging and relaxing. Yoga, meditation, going to the gym — those all help too — but pilates is definitely my favorite.
4. BOOKS: Not only because of the healing power of a hot bath and a good book but because of the amazing ability of books to take you somewhere else and to put your own life in perspective. In addition, my book club friends are a great private club that I can rely on to always be there.
5. SUNSHINE: Not just in the “yes of course we need sunshine just like we need rain” type of gratitude but more in the “I love flip flops, green grass, t-shirt weather, days at the lake and long walks” kind of way. Sunshine reminds me of every wonderful day running around as a kid and inspires me to take longer walks, spend time outside and paint my toenails.
So, that is my list….what is yours?

Trivializing Women’s Sports April 8, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kate @ 9:11 pm

This morning I was listening to WFAN Sports Radio 660. I frequently listen to the station and usually enjoy the commentators and broadcasts. During this morning’s Boomer & Carlton broadcast, they featured a short segment called “Girls Sports Report” by Al Dukes as part of his “Songs & Boring Podcasts“. I was so angry at the way in which the segment trivialized both the women playing in tonight’s NCAA Tournament game and women’s sports in general that I was yelling at the radio as I drove.

Typically I can vent about whatever I hear on the radio – sports, politics, etc. — and move on but I felt compelled to respond in some way. So, here is the letter that I wrote to WFAN when I got home from work.

I am a regular listener of WFAN 660 and although I don’t always agree with the views and opinions of the commentators, I usually enjoy the programs and live broadcasts on the station. During the Boomer & Carlton broadcast this morning, I listened to Al Dukes in disgust and felt compelled to write to the station. The athletes playing in tonight’s NCAA Tournament game from Stanford and Tennessee work just as hard and play just as passionately as the athletes that played during last night’s game between Kansas and Memphis.

The NCAA calls it “Women’s Basketball” and the “Women’s” National Basketball Association showcases the best and brightest of today’s players. To refer to them as “girls” and use trite sayings like “you go girl” trivializes the work these women do as student athletes and minimizes the increasing popularity of women’s sports. Even worse, it makes it appear that the work these women do on the court, in the classroom and in the community is somehow lesser than the work of their male counterparts — Al Dukes did not call the Kansas athletes “boys”. What type of message does this send to young girls who look up to players like Candice Wiggins, Candace Parker, Sylvia Fowles, Maya Moore and the hundreds of other talented women across the country playing NCAA sports?

WFAN is a leader in sports broadcasting and in community activism and should take their role seriously. Part of doing so would be to treat women’s sports – both collegiate and professional – and female athletes with the respect they deserve.

I have chosen to share this letter because it illustrates the importance of speaking up, of finding our voices and using them to combat ignorance. Hopefully it inspires you to do the same when an issue upsets or inspires you as well.


The Evolution of Friendships April 7, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kate @ 6:28 pm

Over the course of our lives, we meet so many people. What makes us choose some of them to be our friends, leave others to simply be acquaintances? What makes us feel connected to a chosen few and not necessarily as close to others?

I have been exploring this topic in my mind lately and I felt like I just had to get some of my thoughts down. People get so upset sometimes when friendships change. I admit, I have had my share of days in which I get frustrated when things seem different or strained. I have felt guilty when I find myself miserable and restless in the company of old friends who I used to be able to sit with for hours. However, I am realizing that like everything else – friendships evolve and change and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes we take short breaks from certain friendships or grow closer to people who used to just be acquaintances because as our lives change we find we have more in common with them.

A couple of years ago, I got divorced after a very short marriage – I mean celebrity short! — and although the experience was often stressful, frustrating and upsetting, it was also an incredible personal learning experience. As my separation and divorce were happening, there were people I thought would be supportive and caring who acted just the opposite. At the same time, I was incredibly impressed by the love and support that I received from other friends and some unexpected.

I have a large group of female friends — some I’ve been close to since high school, some I met as an undergraduate, a few from graduate school and several from other life experiences (work, friends of friends, etc.). I love them all and I always enjoy spending time with them. However, my oldest friends are no longer the ones that always know everything about me. They weren’t necessarily the ones that stuck with me through my divorce and they aren’t always the ones I call first with good or bad news. That isn’t a bad thing or a criticism, just a reality. Instead, my closest friends – the ones that I share the most with and always find a way to make time for — are from a variety of life experiences: my best friends from my time as an undergraduate, the women I met while working at a Women’s Center, a few women I’ve met along my way and my closest friends from graduate school.

I don’t expect my friends to always agree with my decisions, but I have learned that I have every right to expect that they will share their concerns and ultimately respect me and support me. I don’t expect them to like all of the people I have ever dated or enjoy the company of all of my other friends but I have the right to expect that they will respect my relationships. I do not expect us to always be able to continue weekly drinks or girlie dinner dates but I can expect that when it matter most that true friends will do their very best to be there.

I love my girlfriends — they are incredibly important to me. I don’t always like the decisions they make, the men they marry, the schedules they work — I don’t always agree with their political beliefs or religious views. I think that what makes friendships work is to be able to debate with respect, share your feelings or concerns and still be friends, be each other’s best cheerleader, and support each other when it matters.

Life experiences make you grateful for the people who stick by you and who have shaped your life. I wouldn’t be who I am without my girls – those I am not quite as close to anymore and those that support me every single day.

Thanks for reading and letting me getting these chaotic thoughts out.


Graceful Simplicity April 1, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kate @ 11:26 am

I read a quote not all that long ago that said essentially – “practice a life of graceful simplicity”. I laughed a bit at the time and thought to myself “as opposed to chaotic or clumsy overabundance”? However, I am realizing more and more what the quote truly means and I am trying to use it as inspiration for my own life. I love that by using the word practice the quote implies that we have control over what happens on a day to day basis in our lives, that we have a thoughtful and positive impact on our own lives and the lives of others.

More importantly, I love the concept of graceful simplicity. I like the idea of appreciating the little things — sunny skies, a random day off with no plans, a Sunday spent with family, cute flip-flops on sale, a perfect pedicure, a lunch with friends, a quite night with my boyfriend, a good workout, a long walk — the things that we overlook or don’t take time for regularly because work, school, life get in the way.

I’ll be thirty this year and I have created a list of things that I want to do before the big day with this idea of graceful simplicity in mind. Some of the things are very practical – pay off a credit card, lose 15 pounds — and some are more creative or thoughtful – inspire someone, draft a short story, watch more sunsets. I figure I have about 6 months of practice so that the next decade of my life includes a bit more time to appreciate the little things!