Friday, February 24, 2012

Trial & Error

Pretty much everything I've gotten right in life has been through trial and error.  Great marriage?  Its my second.  Had to have a "starter marriage" in my early twenties, and kiss a lot of frogs between the mid-20s & early 30s years to learn who to be with and how.  

Fulfilling, challenging career?  Sure.  After spending 16 hours a day, 6 days/week in a tiny cubicle, researching and writing minutiae about products liability and securities litigation (topics I care very little about) and deciding that the moment when I spilled an entire container of minestrone soup on my keyboard and called my sister to cry and rant about hating my job INSTEAD OF CLEANING IT UP was a sign to get the hell out.  And yes, I  found my talent for PR, and a way to integrate my passion for social change with my writing and speaking skills, but then I took a long break to focus on motherhood and I am still now, at 40, very much working on developing a career.

And speaking of mothering.  Oy.  Raising my kids seems to call for more falling down and getting back up, practicing over and over, and getting in a good cry and then moving on than anything else I've ever done.

Apparently, to authentically learn and grow, I have to experiment.  A lot.  Get messy.  Reevaluate.  Readjust.  Over and over.  Its really hard.  But the thing is, "The hard is what makes it great."  - Tom Hanks, "A League of Their Own":    

And it really is great.  I secured my first consulting gig in Denver this morning.  A project with an organization whose mission I care deeply about; a project I could start while my son, home sick from school, sat nearby watching TV on the couch.  So I'll keep doing it the hard way.  My way.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

Would you?

Have a great weekend,


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mile High on Green Tea

A Becker Impact LLC update:  In the early hours of the morning before the kids woke up, in between meetings, in between dinner and bath-time, and after the kids were asleep, I wrote and submitted the first Becker Impact proposal.  And then the second.  And I plan on creating the opportunities to keep them coming.  So please keep your fingers crossed, send good vibes, pray, whatever it is that you do to try and help out a chick who is starting her own business and eager to secure that first big client.

Weekdays, while the kids are at school, I continue to at least look like a very busy professional. Apparently, I am good at networking.  I kinda knew this already; now its confirmed.  I occasionally meet people in their offices. But most mornings and afternoons you will find me in one of Denver's charming, funky, work-friendly coffee houses.  Talking to presidents and communications directors and VPs of public policy/affairs of nonprofits and foundations about their organizations.  Shmoozing with other communications consultants, lobbyists, and fundraising specialists about collaboration.  Sending emails introducing myself and Becker Impact and asking someone to meet and caffeinate with me.

I am learning.  Getting to know nice, smart, interesting people.  Feeling confident and hopeful, and insanely vulnerable.

Will all this professional yenta-ing work to get me work?  I hope so.  I read this on another communications strategist's blog: "Networking is a marathon sport.  Its hundreds or thousands of small interactions that eventually culminate in powerful connections being made.  The more dots you put in your network via meetings and conversations, the more likely you'll be able to make connections between those dots in the future."  (click here to read the whole piece:

Add the seriously major benefit of discovering all the best places to drink green tea*, eat a mixed berry muffin and work, or hang out, read a magazine, play on the internet, and people-watch, and its really been a productive couple of months  There are some truly fantastic coffee houses in Denver.

Larry and "G" have suggested that I write a coffee table book about all these delightful places.  Love the idea.  In the blog world, you can find a comprehensive list at  And from yours truly, a quick list with links to my favorites.  (Plus a little shout-out to good 'ole Starbucks because I frequent about a dozen Greater Denver locations, sometimes 2 or 3 in one day).

Fluid Coffee Bar
St. Mark's Coffee House
Common Grounds
Wash Perk
Taza de Cafe

Wake up.  Enjoy.  Get to know someone new.


*About a month ago, after a hell of a lot of cups of coffee, my stomach started to rebel.  I have therefore, for at least most of the time, happily made the switch to the kinder and gentler tea.  

Monday, February 13, 2012

Follow your heart.

** WARNING: READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.  Material contained within may cause intermittent rolling of the eyes and the onset of mild to moderate nausea.  

It is Valentines Day tomorrow.  So who else to write about this evening besides the love of my life, my beloved, the adorable smart-ass mensch sitting to my right paying bills - Lawrence I. Schwartz.

It seems that a bit of romantic sentiment about my husband started pushing its way to the forefront of my thoughts this past weekend.  At shabbat dinner with some friends, I found myself telling a story of a seminal moment in me and Larry's "courtship" that I hadn't reflected on, much less talked about, in a really long time.

The story in a nutshell:  Its 2003.  The friends who set us up tell me Larry is divorced.  I trust said friends.  We go out 3 or 4 times.  I like Larry.  He then tells me that he is separated (about 6 months); the divorce not yet final.  I (so very not in the mood to be rebound-girl) tell him: great meeting you; have a nice life.  A few days later, 6:30 am, I am running along the Baltimore Harbor.  Larry pops out of nowhere, scares the shit out of me, shoves a letter in my hand and runs off.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

I reread that letter this afternoon (yep, still have it.)  Great letter.  Yes, yes, lots of lovely things about me.  And he obviously spent a convincing paragraph or two on "my marriage is over and I'm ready."  But what really stands out in these now exalted four pages is Larry's sense of hope.

Hope.  noun
the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.

Inspired me then.  
Keeps me going now.  

Larry's optimism is well illustrated by his latest "major life decision."  Taking a substantial pay cut so he could raise his children and live his life more actively, more outdoors, more Jewishly.  Living his life according to his values.  How many of us can say that this is really what we do?  I am moved; I am motivated; I am so damn proud.

Happy Valentines Day LOML.  Thank you for stalking me.  And relaxing me enough to be able to just follow my heart.  You were right.  Its turned out pretty well.



Saturday, February 4, 2012

Bossy Girls

Earlier this week, Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, led a panel on "Women as the Way Forward" at The World Economic Forum at Davos.  Sandberg was one of six co-chairs of the forum; the rest were men.  In fact, attendance at this year's 5-day meeting was more than 80% men.  Surprised?  Of course not.  And there were more women there this year than ever before.  Sandberg, who is 42, noted that women attending the highly competitive forum were likely to have been called "bossy" as little girls.  She was.  According to Sandberg, "success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women."


Were you called "bossy" as a little girl?  Yeah, me too.  In my pre-teen and teenage years, I also got "you should be a lawyer" a lot.  I don't think this was a compliment on my verbal or analytical skills.  Nope, not intended to support developing leadership abilities either.  Or to help build up that self-esteem we know plummets as girls approach adolescence (and, thankfully, so fastidiously work to maintain in our young girls today).

Not that my labelers meant any harm.  No, I think those who called me "bossy" and "lawyer" were just trying to place me.  I was raised as an orthodox Jew, and orthodox Jewish girls are not known for being particularly outspoken.  Or for challenging authority.  I was the one who, when just the 12th grade girls had to take a class called "Lifecycles" and learn the laws of nidah, marital purity, went apoplectic.  It was the 1980s.  I think my well meaning peers and the adults in my community just figured, "must be one of those 'female lawyers,' like on LA Law."

Oversimplified?  Sure.  Because it was certainly a time in the United States when a tremendous amount was changing for women, and the orthodox community was not immune.  To be fair, there are other orthodox Jewish women my age who became lawyers, and those who made laudable strides in mixing feminism with Torah observance (See for example, Haviva Ner David, the first orthodox Jewish woman to receive rabbinical ordination or the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance's work to bring mixed - as in men and women together -Torah reading to modern orthodox synagogues.)  Still, I think its fair to say that orthodox Jews, even the "modern" ones, are, well, fairly orthodox when it comes to following specific prescriptions for life.

So, my upbringing wasn't all "get married, have kids, cook nice meals for Shabbos." I took AP classes; I served on student council.  Hell, I even had the opportunity to play on a volleyball team, and we know how effective sports can be at building self-confidence.  I certainly can't blame the patriarchy for the klutziness that meant I spent all season on the bench.

But even a naive fourteen year old girl in a long jean skirt and keds knows that while its OK for some of the dads, her being well suited to lawyerdom makes her, well, if not a total Lilith, at least somewhat undesirable.  Unpleasant.  Unmarriable.

Oy how the messages were mixed.  I sang "Free to Be You & Me" and "Someday My Prince Will Come."  I received consistent praise for bringing home "As."  And consistently received things like the easy bake oven, cabbage patch dolls, and pretty clothes for Chanuka.  My mother told me I was too smart to be a model.  And that a good mother would not go to work and let her children be cared for by a nanny.  My father proudly touted my accomplishments to whichever extended family member was willing to listen, and defended me against the rabbis who were less than inspired by my opinions.  And when I signed up for a creative writing class during the same 6 week period in which I dated an aspiring playwright, my father advised that I not; "Let writing be his thing," he said.  A potential husband can feel threatened.

Though I recognize that the telling of this part of my story may result in some (hopefully brief) hurt feelings, I in no way intend to disrespect a well-intentioned community and the parents who did their best, and, in the process, raised a reasonably successful, happy woman who, it seems worth noting, did in fact go onto to study law at a university that didn't even accept female students until 1970.  

So Sheryl Sandberg, what do we do to finally turn this thing around and get more women to Davos?  In 2012, do we really still have to work to make clear that most women and girls are not one thing or the other - take charge or doting, competitive or sweet - but a rich mixture of all of the above?  Do we still call girls who speak their mind and challenge the status quo "bossy" or do we acknowledge them as leaders?

Or, did Tina Fey really have it, when she said, “Don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions; go over, under, through, and opinions will change organically when you’re the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares? Do your thing, and don’t care if they like it.”  


p.s. Here are links to a few organizations that inspire me to keep on honoring the "bossy girl" within.  Please tack on links to yours ...