To the women I admire most in the world

International Women's Day is a day of recognition that I honestly wasn't aware of (isn't that a shame?) until about two years ago. In all the years I've worked for and with women, this day was never brought up or recognized. 

Back in the days when I worked for the State of Florida, when my mother and I were employed in the same bureau, I had the absolute pleasure of working with a group of women who I liked personally and professionally a great deal. Many of these ladies were, in fact, also old enough to be my mother and in true Southern style they didn't mind telling me what they thought or what to do. (I even went to school with one of the women's two daughters.) I dubbed them my Ten Moms. I still miss the camaraderie I had with those ladies. I miss them period. Sadly, my mother and other that I know of have  passed away in the years since I moved to Canada. Time moves on and so have I but the memories I have of the first women I looked up to in the workplace will stay with me. I am so blessed to have two truly wonderful women to work with in my part-time job - they are lovely, funny and awesome. I couldn't have picked better if I'd had to choose myself. 

Back: Vicky (Mieka), Lara, Me, Front: Barbara (Reid), Donna, Sara

Back: Vicky (Mieka), Lara, Me, Front: Barbara (Reid), Donna, Sara

Getting involved online has opened up my world to many people, places and things. There's the obvious fact that I met a guy and moved from Florida to Canada to be with him. But that doesn't count on International Women's Day. What does count are the women like Lara, Sara, Vicky, Donna and Barbara who were the original Losing it in Ottawa gang. Most of us were strangers one day and friends the next. Though we've gone on to do other things for the most part, I still count them as friends and admire their chutzpah. Seriously, when you admit your struggles as openly and honestly as we did, it takes guts.

Karen & Lara-0016.jpg

One person who I definitely haven't been separated from in that group is my business partner, Lara. After founding Losing it in Ottawa together, we worked together to start Social Capital Conference. When she needed a new partner for Kids in the Capital, I said yes. The only thing we weren't doing together was consulting - and then we were. I've had a lot of co-workers that I've clicked with and worked well with, but Lara's different. It's like we feed off each other. Ideas burst forth and we seem to complement each other's strengths and weaknesses. We can tease each other about our eccentricities and quirks. A mutual friend, Jordan, has often called us Statler and Waldorf for our twitter conversations that happy when we're feeling goofy and loopy. I admire Lara for many reasons, but the one that is most clear is that she knows what she wants and she isn't afraid to go after it. She's the best kind of partner to have in business.

In general, I don't get starstruck by people who are public figures, but there are people I've come to know through social media that I definitely get starstruck with. I'm still embarrassed when I think about my giddiness meeting women like Amber Mac and Gini Dietrich. I look up to them and respect them as women who are contributing value to their respective fields. Gini, in particular, is someone I follow with great interest because she's so down-to-earth, approachable and she's just plain good at what she does. Also, when I have employees, I hope I'm half the boss she is. Or maybe I should just convince her to let me work for her too. ;)

Ultimately, the women I admire are not famous. They aren't doing outrageous things for attention. They are being who they are, doing what they do the best they can and being awesome at it. This is merely a select few women that have influenced me in my life and I haven't even talked about the most influential woman in my life much in this post. My mother helped shape the person I am more than any other woman in my life. There is no doubt that I was incredibly blessed to have her for a mom.

Who are the women you admire in your life? Make sure they know today!

I didn't know it, but this was exactly what I needed

Monday I wrote from my heart in a way that I haven’t really done before. Now I want to share where it came from. 

Last weekend, I attended Podcasters Across Borders (PAB), a conference that has a slightly misleading name. It’s actually all about content. 

No, that’s not entirely accurate.

I think PAB is more accurately described as a conference that is about content that connects. Content that builds relationships. Content that touches a need. These themes were carried through the entire conference this weekend. I came away inspired, uplifted, and even emotionally exhausted. I was not at all prepared for this experience and I think that was a good thing. Had I prepared, I think I would have guarded myself more and not felt what was happening quite so deeply and that would have been a shame.

I went prepared to work. Ipad and phone in hand, ready to take notes and tweet like crazy with my profound and highly insightful thoughts or quotes from speakers. I did a little of that, but it didn’t take long before the conference pulled me in so completely that I put my phone down, didn’t even bother taking my ipad out of my bag and just soaked it all in.

The result is that I honestly don’t remember exactly who said what that stuck with me but there was one session that affected me deeply and profoundly. But let me set the stage for you:

Friday night was the conference keynote where Scott Florence from Company of Fools shared the advice that we should try to fail. That sounds odd, and I may be putting words into his mouth, but I interpreted it as encouragement to jump in to something without planning it to the nth degree. It reminded me of a band director I had who always told us if we were going to make a mistake to make it a big one because they’re easier to hear and fix. People who make quiet mistakes and fly under the radar don’t get noticed and they rarely do great things. Scott’s keynote inspired me to get out and DO the things I’ve been talking about doing - to my family, my partner, and to myself.

While I walked away from Friday night feeling energized and inspired, Saturday morning I was pretty tired after staying up too late working, but I brightened up when I saw these as I was leaving my house:

The focus is horrible due to my rush to get to the conference.

We made an essential stop on our way downtown. This was a first - I’ve seen Caren and Carrin, but never Carren. I always thought my spelling was the default, too…guess I was wrong. ;)

The short walk from where Matt dropped me off to the NAC was gorgeous and I decided to take some pictures for Brandon, who got very upset as soon as I got out of the car.

All this picture taking was putting me into a lovely mindset for the day. It struck me as I was walking down the sidewalk running beside the NAC just how utterly gorgeous Ottawa was right then in that moment. (Yes, always, but right then it was spectacular.)

The picture may not reflect the spectacularness, but trust me on this. It was.This gives you an idea of my hopefulness for the day - eagerness to learn and gain wisdom from others. 

In truth, I had no clue what I was walking into would be more profound and emotional than I ever expected to experience in such a venue. Our kickoff speaker Saturday was a last-minute replacement because the scheduled speaker was unable to make it.

Jason Goldsmith drove two hours that morning from Montreal to join us in Ottawa and I forgot all about my disappointment at not hearing the original speaker as I realized that this was the speaker I needed to hear. Jason is father to Ellis. Ellis is autistic, which has presented challenges to their family. I suspect the communication challenges were the biggest of all. I would love to reiterate Jason’s story, but he does a much better job and what I got out of it was much more important than what was said.

You see, during this session, I was receiving a string of texts from Matt keeping me posted on Brandon. They went immediately back home and Brandon proceeded to meltdown for over an hour. Until this:

I’m sitting there listening to this amazing story, thinking about our own situation with Brandon and knowing that Matt is dealing with an inconsolable child. It was all too much. I was overwhelmed, emotional, at my limit. Just thinking about that hour and a half brings the tears back again. I think that Jason’s talk was host to the moment that I realized that this was real and not going away easily. At the same time, I felt hope that it would be okay, even if it was hard work to get the help Brandon needs. 

If that was the start of the day, what would the rest bring?

Next up was a jolt from Robin Browne, who was eloquent and thought-provoking. He challenged us to think differently and look for the grey in life. To think, not strictly in black and white, but to realize there is more going on than we even realize. He tied in some racial commentary, noting that the first tablet built in Africa wasn’t deemed newsworthy. Yet, that really should be, shouldn’t it? The media thinks in black and white too.

By this time my head was swirling. I don’t even remember who came next. At some point, I talked to Jason, but after the first couple of speakers and because I consciously decided to focus on the speakers and not take notes, I have actually lost some of that day.

But after lunch…oh, that amazing lunch and creme brulee!…I was better. More focused. But not actually prepared to be so completely blown away by one of my lunch table mates. Brandon Wint…just, wow. The PAB video isn’t ready yet, but he spoke at TEDxOttawa and you can see the video here:

I could listen to Brandon Wint talk all day. The pictures he paints with words, spontaneously and unrehearsed, are beautiful, touching and profound. His love of poetry, love of life, love of his country…love of love…come through loud and clear through his art and his person.

You can see now why I say that PAB was about content that connects. In some way, shape or form, I connected with every single speaker and all the people I got to speak to that I shared this experience with. I wish I could share every little morsel with you, because it filled me up so completely.

At the end of the day, when all the speakers were done speaking, it’s an annual tradition to take a PAB family photo. So, we all filed outside to the steps of the NAC where, of course, we saw a young man portaging a pink canoe.

Source: Bob Goyetche

And, of course, he needed to be in our picture too. Because when you see a pink canoe walking down Elgin Street and you have a camera, you take a picture. Lots of them.

 

Meet Andy, new friend to PAB2012 attendees, simply because he had a pink canoe. Andy’s on a mission to raise awareness and funds for cancer. Clearly, he is not afraid of hard work. His journey started in Kingston, Ontario and he came up to Ottawa and now he’s heading back to Kingston and beyond - all the way to Windsor. 

Carrying a very heavy canoe all the way. 

Wow.

If you want to find out more about The Pink Portage, you should definitely follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Andy moved on, taking up his canoe and continuing on his journey.

That’s what the final PAB felt like - the start of a journey for me personally. The inspiration, the community, the thoughts swirling in my brain still after nearly a week. It was my first and my last trip to PAB, but I’ll never forget it.

I don't love Facebook; I just like what it's done for me

I live approximately 1,500 miles from my hometown, Tallahassee, Florida. All my family still live in the U.S. and I don’t get to see them nearly as much as I’d like. I left behind a lifetime’s worth of friendships that are hard to maintain over time and distance.

Just when I thought I’d probably never see or hear from my long distance friends, along comes Facebook and my friends list exploded overnight. 

I joined Facebook in summer of 2007. At first, I really didn’t use it much. I had one friend - the person who invited me - for quite a while. After making my first connection with someone I hadn’t seen in years, I began to see the value of this thing called Facebook. I started seeking people out - searching for names of people I hadn’t seen since high school, wanting to know where they were and what they were doing, how their lives were going.

There were two people I was almost desperate to reconnect with. But every attempt to find them was fruitless, either because the search results were so abundant that I didn’t have a prayer of a chance of picking the right one, or because they hadn’t signed up to the time-sucking vampire that is Facebook.

It turns out that, among my oldest friends, I was the early-adopter of this particular social media addiction. The first of the two people I was eagerly waiting to hear from popped up about a year after I joined. Dawn and I lost touch because of email address changes and technology fails in the form of lost data. Her first message to me was, “You have a child!” That made me smile, even though it was sad that I didn’t get to share that news with her a lot sooner. Dawn was a very dear friend I met when we both showed up to our first studio class in the same jacket. We were both voice students in the music education program at Florida State University. We bonded over our identical jackets and eventually shared many classes together - the best being grad student Tracy’s Music Theory class.

The second person I was anxious to find on Facebook finally showed up last week. She and I spent our last five years in school together. We met in 8th grade when she came to my school new. We were both sort of anomolies - she was the new student and I was the home-schooled student who came for band. (Yeah, I was a band nerd like that.) We were BFFs through all four years of high school. She was a majorette and I was on the flag corps. We had lively and respectful discussions about our differing beliefs during our many sleepovers - as well as a few fairly embarrassing writing sessions. (I hope we burned those notebooks so our kids don’t get their hands on them.)

When I saw her name pop up on my news feed on Facebook, I wanted to do cartwheels. It has been almost 10 years since we had any contact and I’ve missed her very much. I’m so happy to have her back in my life again. Every attempt I made to find her previously was unsuccessful, but I knew we’d cross paths somehow, someday.

Facebook gets a lot of flack - and rightly so - for it’s cavalier attitude about privacy and not knowing how to make things opt-in instead of opt-out. But I can’t regret that I’m on there, nor will I delete my account anytime soon. Because, to me, it’s too valuable to be able to connect with people who are dear to me on a regular basis in the small ways that I get to connect with them on Facebook. Several of my family members are on there now as well and that’s been so exciting for me.

Certain people wonder why I love blogging and social media as much as I do. Well, this is a huge part of why I love it and am so involved in it. It’s all about the connections I can maintain with people I don’t get to see anymore. For me, Facebook and my blog in particular have significantly decreased the distance I feel from my loved ones and I hope they feel closer to me as well.

So, what about you? What do you get from social networks you’re involved in? 

The complicated technology of relationships

Source: istockphotoThe last few months, friendship has been on my mind quite a bit. Sometimes it’s been due to events that have happened - to myself or others. Sometimes it’s just part of my general reflections on where I’ve come from and how people and relationships have influenced me. 

In the last three years, a whole new dimension to my personal relationships has opened up. It’s the social media dimension.

I was invited to join Facebook in summer of 2007 by a co-worker. She was my first “friend” and we’re still friends through Facebook though I haven’t worked with her in a year and a half. That’s one of the things I love about Facebook. I can keep in touch with people without a great deal of effort, and vice versa. Let’s face it: we’re all busy and getting an occasional snapshot of people’s lives is nice. I’ve reconnected with many friends from high school and people who I’ve lost touch with.

I used to listen to a tech podcast - CNET’s Buzz Out Loud - and learned quite a bit about social media in general through the podcast. At one point they talked about a CNET employee who had linked his wife to his relationship status on Facebook, but as his profesional notoriety increased, he decided he wanted to separate his public persona from his private life. So, he deleted his wife’s name from his relationship status. And all of his friends and hers got the message that they were no longer married.

Relationship statuses are still published in the feed to this day (unless you disable it in your settings). I’ve had a few friends whose relationships either ended or hit rocky times and changes to that status are broadcast to everyone (It’s Complicated) and I always feel awkward about it. Not that I don’t want to know or wouldn’t be supportive in whatever way I can. But it’s abrupt to have all of your friends learn about something so momentous that way.

When I think about the “online” factor of relationships, it blows my mind. So much is documented that people don’t often think about. I can’t even count how many stories I’ve heard about jobs lost, reputations tarnished, relationships ended because of little bits of information people pick up from individuals’ online activities.

Some people get online and let it all hang out - after all, there’s no one sitting in front of you inhibiting your rash information dissemination. If there’s no face reflecting feelings, it’s easy to write or do things at a distance that you wouldn’t do face-to-face. At the other end of the spectrum, there are people that are afraid to put anything out there. Many refuse to join social networks or online communities at all. (Perhaps that’s the safest bet.)

I think there is a happy medium between these extremes. I use a few filters with my online activity.

One is the mom-filter. And it goes two ways:

  1. Would my mom (or dad) be disappointed to read/know this about me?
  2. Will my son be disappointed to read/know this about me?

Another filter I use has to do with my employability - would a potential employer stop talking to me if they read/know this about me? This one is tricky since everyone has the right to their opinions and free expression, but I think it has to do with character and how you conduct yourself overall. Being respectful of others is crucial, even when there are differences. For me, my online activity is a personal hobby. I do not talk about what I do or where I work. (I’ve even deleted comments where others have inadvertently mentioned details about my work online.)

The last major filter I use is my own comfort zone. I like to call it the this-could-be-out-there-forever-and-do-I-really-want-that filter. Like many people, when I first joined Facebook, I wasn’t terribly selective about what I said and did. As time went on, though, I gained friends and eventually realized I needed to think more carefully about what I was saying. Sure, you can delete posts, but if even one person saw it before you deleted it, then it’s out there. (It’s also Facebook - so, how do we know they actually delete it on the back end?)

We all know that reading words on a page is a recipe for misunderstanding the intent and tone of a message. But what isn’t said can be just as damaging when you’re building relationships online. It’s interesting to see how relationships built online often cause as much (if not more) angst and hurt as “in real life” (IRL) relationships. What’s more, it’s sad to see how IRL relationships are ruined by poor choices online.

It makes me wonder if technology truly causes complications with relationships or if people complicate things entirely on their own by not thinking through the implications of their actions thoroughly.

What do you think? Do you have any filters you use when you’re posting content online?