To the 1980’s Students of Zama High School…

Maybe it is that moving constantly has taught us to cram more – fun, laughter, friendship, love, affection and heartbreak…  into a short period of time…
Maybe it is that distance and time can really make the heart grow fonder…
Maybe it is the comfort of finally being around other people who understand our nomadic, yet oh so, structured life…

Maybe it is that military life reinforces for us how short life can really be and there is no room or time to continue through life with anger, grudges & cliques…
Maybe it was just magic…some kindly old witch saw the promise in us and cast a spell to bind us together always…

Maybe it was something in the water … or the greasy burgers at the Roach Coach…

Or maybe, just maybe, it is just that we were blessed to be in the right place at the right time, with the most wonderful people…

Words and the Superbowl

Yes, the Superbowl last night was lackluster and with few exceptions (RadioShack, Budweiser’s Puppy Love, Coca-Cola and Cheerios were my favorites) the ads were meh.  As usual, my Twitter stream was probably the most interesting thing I was watching.  Usually quiet during a sporting event, even my Facebook wall seemed to be actively following both the game and the ads.  Then I started to get disgusted.  Early in the game a ton of memes, tweets and posts started showing up making fun and saying some pretty nasty things about Peyton Manning and the Broncos.

Yes, it is a sporting event and yes, some good natured ribbing and trash talking will happen. The problem for me is that some of the comments were just downright petty, mean and derogatory.  Yes, Peyton and the Broncos had a bad night, a really bad night, but the fact is they got to the Superbowl.  There is a certain amount of respect due to players who work incredibly hard to reach the pinnacle of their profession.  And yet, here we were, we armchair quarterbacks, saying and publicly posting some really nasty stuff because they were having a bad night.

At one point I posted this on Twitter and Facebook

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I got several responses, most of them private, essentially telling me to lighten up, it is just sports, it is just entertainment.

That was when I got really disgusted.  It is not just sports.  It is the example we give our kids.  Coaches teach child athletes sportsmanship.  Or at least they are supposed to. But what about the non-athletes or the kids who are only ok? What message are we sending to them?  That if someone is not good enough or is having an off day, it is ok to make fun of them?

Kids learn what they hear and observe, not always what we say. They learn how to think and behave based on what the adults around them do and say.  Whether it is making fun of Peyton Manning because he is having a bad ballgame or the racist tirades that were happening over the Coca-Cola or Cheerios ads (that is a rant for another day), kids will copy what they see and hear us doing.

We think that our little memes, jokes and comments, whether it is about sports, the color of someones skin, their ethnicity, sexuality, female or male bashing, whatever, are just “harmless entertainment”. We forget that kids are observing and listening and thinking that kind of behavior is acceptable.

We are all guilty of it, myself included, at one point or another.   I just wish we would all start being more conscious of how our words and actions are observed by and reflected in the young people around us.

What are we teaching kids about sportsmanship and life in general? That you make fun of the ones who are not as good or are having an off day or are different?

I walk because I can not walk away…

First, THANK YOU to everyone who has already donated! You are angels!

9-25-2013 UPDATE:  Only $225 to go! 

I am $505 away from the $2300 I need to raise for the walk and I could use your help.

This is my 9th year walking.  The 9th year that i have pushed myself beyond what I thought I was capable of physically, mentally and emotionally. 9 years that I have given my all in support of the women and men who have breast cancer and to try and help prevent more from getting it.

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I am sure that some of you will have reservations about donating to this cause. I will be perfectly honest and transparent that based on recent events, I have some reservations also. But this is a commitment I made long before the questions arose.   It also does not change the fact that there are people struggling with this disease and your donation can help make that struggle easier.  It can be the little extra needed for research to prevent this terrible disease.  It can the little bit that makes a difference in someone’s life.

I have said this many times, but it is no less true now.  Other than having had my children, this walk, these 3 days, these 60 miles are the most rewarding thing that I have ever done. All 9 times. I walk in memory of my mother and other wonderful women that I have lost.  I walk in celebration of the survivors.  I walk in solidarity with all the women facing the prospect of possibly having this disease.  I walk so that my nieces and the young women that I love may never have to face the prospect of dealing with breast cancer.

I walk because I can not walk way.

So please, I am asking for your help to reach my goal. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you!

Gloria

Help me reach my goal for the Susan G. Komen Philadelphia 3-Day

I’ve been there…have you?

Suicide…

something not easy to talk about, but it is in being silent that we lose our ability to prevent it.

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This is a post about my experience, but more so about something even more important – How we can help others who feel hopeless and helpless.  So, please bear with me while I tell my story.  Then I promise to get to the part where I tell you how YOU can make a difference.

I have struggled with depression since I was a teenager.  Maybe even before that.  There have been many times throughout my life that I felt hopeless.  That it felt like there was little in life to live for. When just functioning normally through the day was a struggle that seemed too heavy a burden.

I have always been fortunate to have wonderful people in my life who were able to pull me through those moments.  Often without even realizing that was what they were doing.  They were just there, loving me, caring for me, taking care of me.  Then there came the day (well, night actually) when even the people who cared about me didn’t matter.  Yes, that is a harsh statement but it is true. I had hit rock bottom.  The point where the pain of being me even outweighed how much I loved the people in my life.  The night I decided I could not wake up even one more time.   I said my goodbyes… sending emails to treasured friends asking them to please take care of each other and my children…and I took an action intended to put me to sleep and not let me wake.  Fortunately, it did not work.  Friends rescued me and made sure I got the help I needed.  That moment changed my life for the better.  It gave me a new perspective.  Does this mean I don’t still have down moments? No.  It just means that I know how important having someone to talk to, someone to get you through those crucial moments can be.

The Kristin Brooks Hope Center and IMAlive.org provide just that.  IMAlive volunteers have talked several thousand hopeless people off the proverbial ledge by supporting them through their most desperate moments.   The online crisis chat is currently available most hours of the day but to be truly effective, they need to be available all hours of the day and night.

On September 10th, National Suicide Prevention Day, the Kristin Brooks Hope Center is hosting the first IMAlive 24-7 Giving Day.  People across the country are raising $50,000 to fund 24-7 service of the IMAlive.org online crisis chat.

How can you help?  Donate.  Fundraise. Spread the word. Form a team and compete in the fundraising challenge.  All of the above!  Check the link for more information on how you can make a difference.

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Help IMAlive.org save lives.  Help them be there to help someone through that hopeless moment of terror.  

 
Disclaimer: The Kristin Brooks Hope Center and IMAlive.org are clients. 
 
 

Powering Up Support for Women

Madeline Albright once said “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”.  I don’t remember where or when I first heard this quote, but it made a profound impact on my view of other women in the workplace, my life and in general.   This is why I am immensely proud to participating in this weekend’s PowerUp Weekend.  

I grew up being taught that everyone might not be equal in the eyes of others, but they should be.  Everyone deserves the same treatment, rights and opportunities.  Whether some choose to acknowledge it or not, this is not always true when it comes to women.  What is even more disturbing is that women are often the worst culprits when it comes to not being supportive of other women.

I am blessed when it comes to this issue.  I am surrounded by many women who not only understand that it is imperative that we support other women but that we spend the time and effort to lift them up, educate them, show them possibilities and provide the resources to get them there.  The women I am honored to consider my friends and family, the women I work with on projects like Social Media Club Philly, Philly Startup Leaders, TechGirlz, Girl Develop It and the Philly Women In Tech Summit are amazing!  They understand that we bring so much more to advancing and changing our world if we work together and support one another.  

This weekend I am privileged to spend my time with another great group of women.  Women who will be sharing ways to not only build a great career, but to also have some balance.  Women who understand that having a powerful life involves everything from building a career you love to healthy living.  Uneeka Jay (@PowerMommy) and her company, Powerful U Media Group have brought together an impressive group of speakers and attendees for sharing, learning and networking.

I am very excited to be attending PowerUp Weekend 2012 and look forward to meeting more women who are working to support, encourage and lift up other women!

Glasses & Contacts changed my world – For better and for worse

My friend Cecily Kellogg recently blogged about her experience being a glasses and contact lens wearer for Buy More Contacts. It brought back several memories of my own glasses/contacts transition, but the bonus was that  in coordination with Buy More Contacts, Cecily is giving away an iPad.  To enter, all I had to do was leave a comment and post a tweet about the contest, but posting a blog entry about the contest and my own glasses/contact lens experience gets me more entries – so here goes!

I started wearing glasses in 2nd grade.  The day I got them, my world changed – for the better and for the worst.  Finally I could see signs, the blackboard in school, the TV without sitting on top of it…colors and shapes were finally clear!   But, like most things in life, there is a flip side.  Imagine the little girl who is the shortest in the class, is smart, shy, is always the “new” girl because her military family moved often and she wears glasses!  Fast forward a few years and add braces.  Children are cruel.  We can just leave it there.  Everyone knows how that story ends.

Thanks to genetically poor eyes, I spent as much time in the optometrist office as at the dentist.  If I went a year without a change (always stronger) in my glasses prescription it was a long time.  The average was every six months.  Until I was 13.  I can not remember the doctor’s exact words, but I remember the meaning… If I did not start wearing contacts, there was a good chance I could be legally blind by the time I was 30.   Do not ask me the science behind it, but I vaguely remember him explaining something about the effect of contact lens on slowing down the deterioration of my eyes.   Being 13, I had pretty much tuned out the explanation behind why, I only heard that I was FINALLY going to not have to wear my glasses!   And contacts it has been pretty much ever since!   I went from wearing standard hard lenses (pretty much the only choice 33 years ago) to GPR – gas permeable lenses.  Those wonderful throw away soft lenses were never meant to be for my needing significant correction eyes, but that’s ok.

  That little girl grew up to realize that I could be as pretty and cool with my glasses as without,     but the effect the contact lenses had on both my vision and my self-esteem was significant.       Did I still get teased about being short, smart, shy… Sure I did, but at least with my contacts, “four-eyes” was one less taunt that I heard.

It starts with believing in Philadelphia…

I ended up in a lively conversation this morning on Twitter about why tech companies are leaving Philly. It started with my comment to Technically Philly about their new feature “Exit Interview“.  I applauded their efforts to look at why companies were leaving the city but also inquired whether they were going to look at how to get them to stay.

Someone I respect responded that the way to get them to stay was more tech companies, that there was not enough in Philly.  As a member of the Philly StartUp Leaders Leadership team, I know better.  There are plenty of tech companies in Philly.  They just do not get the attention they deserve.  The counter was that because there was no Google, Amazon or HP in Philly that we will never be a good tech city.  There will never be a large pool of talent or the competition to keep salaries high.

I disagree.  There is a tremendous pool of talent in Philadelphia.   I also do not think we have to have one of the “big” companies in the area to become a world class tech community.  There are plenty of companies across the spectrum – startup to big – in Philly.  We just have not done the best job getting them the attention they deserve. Which in turn means they do not get as many resources, support or funding.

So how do we fix that? I have some ideas, but  I would really love to hear your recommendations.

My #1 – Start supporting this city and this community in what we say.  The more we continue to talk about what is wrong instead of how to fix it, the more everyone else (meaning the world at large) will believe it.  Until we quit being our own worst enemy and looking down on ourselves.  Until we quit talking about how much better New York, the Silicon Valley or other places are than Philly.  We will never be anything more than we are right now.

To make others believe we are better, faster, stronger, smarter, we have to believe it first ourselves.  And we have to start telling everyone else, all the time.

So what is your #1 solution on how we get Philadelphia’s tech community to be more than it is right now?

Have we forgotten 9/11?

I think we have.  In my opinion, the number of people complaining about the TSA, full body scans and pat downs apparently have.

Yes, the scans are uncomfortably revealing.  It is inconvenient to have to take off our shoes, take out our electronics, empty our pockets and reduce our liquids to small amounts.  No, it is not fun and feels a bit invasive to be patted down.

That is the point!  How else do you expect them to be able to identify potentially harmful substances or objects and keep them from getting on the plane. You will be a whole hell of lot more uncomfortable, inconvenienced or feel violated when someone blows up the plane or takes it hostage and crashes it into a building.

It sucks but it is the reality of our world today.  It also infuriates me that the people complaining today are likely to be among the first one starting an uproar that not enough was done to protect us when something bad happens.  Grow up and realize that sometimes we have to make sacrifices for safety.

Being a “not like all the others” parent…

This post was inspired by a woman I am privileged to call a dear friend, Cecily Kellogg.

She wrote a post today that touched me so deeply.  I started commenting on her blog and two paragraphs in realized that my comments could end up being as long as her blog post.  So time to move my thoughts on to my own blog.

In her post (which you absolutely MUST read!), Cecily talks about “Sometimes I feel like I’m just cut from different cloth than most of the other moms I know.” and “…I still feel sometimes like I just don’t get it.”   That feeling that we, as mothers (or fathers for that matter) are just not the same as the other parents out there, so we question whether we are the ones doing something wrong.

Every mother feels this way and the ones who say they don’t are Stepford Wife robots. Or have the money to pay someone else to parent their kid.   I know I feel that way every single day.

I have made choices as a mother that have been laughed at, frowned upon, questioned and a whole lot worse.  I have been told that I am not really a mother because I made the decision that my sons were better off living with their father.  I have been accused of abandoning my sons.  Want to find a way to make a mother feel like she just doesn’t get it?  Tell her that her sons will never grow up right because  she is not a daily part of their lives.  – Just stab me in the heart why don’t you?

I have been far from a perfect parent but I treasure every moment of uniqueness, honesty, openness and sometimes just plain weirdness with my kids.  Best of all, I know they do too.

It took until they were older for my sons to express that they were mad at me for choices I had made.  For some of those choices their anger and disappointment was justifiable.   But throughout the sorrow (and guilt – massive amounts of guilt!) that their words spurred in me,  I knew in my heart that it was my uniqueness, my honesty, my openness throughout their lives that gave them the ability and freedom to express those emotions and work with me to move past the feelings.

My sons and I have very unique relationships.  Relationships that seem odd to most people.  We don’t necessarily talk every day.  I often find out things in their lives at the last minute.  I am not there for every scraped knee, trip to the ER or to calm nerves before a date.  Yet, I am always there.  I am there in the way they walk, talk and sing at the top of their lungs in the car (like I do). I am there in the voracious way they absorb information, in their love of music, theatre, movies, books, photography, writing, gardening and all of the other things I have a passion for that they have learned to love.  I am there in their patriotism.  I am there in their compassion and caring for others.  I am always there.  While I may not have been there every moment, I tried my hardest to make every moment that I was there count.   To try my hardest to make sure that they always knew they were loved and that they knew right from wrong.

I may not have been the perfect “Donna Reed” mother.  I may not have been the one making their lunches every day, driving car pool or tucking them in every single night.  What I have been is a woman who was not afraid to show her children that she was not perfect.  More importantly, I showed them that they did not need permission to not be perfect.   The one lesson that I hope my children have learned is that it is not only ok to be unique, to follow your heart, to pursue your passions, but that as long as you are kind, compassionate, thoughtful and never intentionally hurt anyone, it is absolutely preferable.

Why I am thinking about leaving Philly

There are so many things I love about this city.  The history, the culture, the food, the fun and most of all the people.  I have made some wonderful life long friends, fallen in and out of love, smiled, cheered, laughed and cried with some of the most fantastic people I have ever met.  I love the busy streets of downtown, the quiet countryside of the suburbs and that within a short time I can be listening to the waves of the ocean.

So, why am I considering leaving?   Because as much as I love this city, as much as I want to do for the community here, I am starting to feel that I can no longer make a difference.

Most of you know that  I am actively involved in the tech/creative/social media/entrepreneurial communities here in Philly.   I give of my heart, soul, energy and a tremendous part of my time to building and promoting the community.  I support multiple organizations in this community.  I freely and willingly give this time and effort.  I do it because I believe in this city and the community we are building here.  I believe in some simple ideals –

  • That we can and must build a unified tech/creative/social media/entrepreneurial community
  • That the community working together is infinitely stronger than the divided silos that we are currently allowing to emerge
  • That the community is capable of doing great things and making great strides in all sectors of the city, including the government.
  • That if you are going to proclaim to lead under a banner of building community, that you must work all inclusively  to build that community for the benefit of all of its members

To others, these may seem to be optimistic and possibly naive ideals, but I firmly believe in them. I believe in the power that actions taken to further these ideals have to truly make a difference for this community and the city as a whole.  Which brings us to one of the reasons why I am thinking about leaving Philly …

There are others in this community who believe in the same ideals.  Who truly believe that being a leader in this community must be a selfless endeavor.  While we all have motivations that involve building our businesses and our personal and professional reputations, the overriding motivation as a leader must be the growth and progression of the community and its members.  It can not be about only promoting and working for a clique.   Unfortunately, in my opinion, there are too many leaders in this community who have not embraced these ideals.  Too many individuals who are vocal about promoting these ideals, but whose overall actions are contradictory to their alleged aims. Those who are looked up to as leaders when they fail to lead by walking their talk.  It saddens me deeply that the obstacles of ego, infighting, immaturity, and elitist behavior are standing in the way of the miraculous things we, as a unified community, can do in this city and this region.   It also bothers me that the efforts of many good people, who put tremendous effort into trying to make good things happen in this city are overshadowed by the loud voices of a few who have repeatedly demonstrated that they are more likely to talk than to truly act.   When the acknowledged (and vocal) leaders of the community work more to promote division than coordination and cooperation, we can not achieve the things we are possible of achieving.  Because I am seeing an acceleration in these types of instances and a growth in the “us versus them” mentality, I am losing faith that any of my efforts are capable of making the differences that I and others are committed to.  When the visible leaders of the community are not the ones working the hardest to improve the quality of the entire community and seem to be actively working on dividing the community for their own aims, the hardest efforts of those behind the scenes become more difficult.

Which then leads me to another of the reasons, I am considering leaving Philly…

I entered this community and started my business here based on one primary ideal

That you must always do the right things for the right reasons

So that is what I have done.   I have worked hard to build my business, but in hindsight, nowhere near as hard as I have, and continue to, work for the good of this community.  I have given a significantly disproportionate amount of time, energy and money into work, events and support of this community and its organizations when compared with the time I have spent on business development.  I will be the first to admit that my motives while primarily altruistic were not 100% so.  A lot of the things I have done have given me access and exposure to the people who were my target market and who could help me grow my business.  But I always came back to the same over-riding principle – do the right things for the right reasons – and for me that meant using the time and resources at my disposal to do the best and most I could for the community.   I would love to be saying that karma has paid me back and things are booming in my business, but that is not the reality.  I am paying for having spent more time on the community than I have on building my business.   The saddest part of all of this is that the very community that I have worked so hard to help is the community that is my target market.  They are the ones who could have most benefited from my services.  Instead, I chose to give away much of my time and energy.   I made my choices based on a love for and a deep belief in this community.  I will live with the fact they were not wise choices.  Will live with the knowledge that had I been more selfish and worked a bit harder on directly building my business rather than putting so much time and energy into supporting and building the community, my business would be in a much different position than it is currently.  I comfort myself knowing in my heart and soul I was living by my creedo – do the right things for the right reasons.  I will never regret any of the actions I took and given the choice, would probably take them again because they were the right things to do. For now, I must live with knowing that making those choices have put me into a financially precarious position and that I may not be able to continue the efforts that mean so much to me. That is heartbreaking. Maybe it is the military upbringing, but for me having to chose between doing what is right for myself over what is right for the many (the community), I will always choose what is right for the many.  So unless someone steps up and is willing to start subsidizing all of my community building efforts, I may have no choice but to step away.  Unfortunately stepping away means giving up my business, leaving this city and community that I love so much.

Add both of the things I have talked about and some pretty tumultuous personal events and I am left with a very heavy heart.  Left wondering if my time in Philly is due to come to an end.  Wondering if it is time to say enough – that I have put myself in a position where I can no longer financially, physically and emotionally afford  to make the difference I truly want to make.   Wondering if the obstacles standing in the way of the progress of this community can be worn down sufficiently to allow this city to become the world class tech/creative/entrepreneurial hub that it should be.   And wondering have I been wrong all along?

I am not a quitter.  I believe in this community.  I love this city.   In my heart of hearts I do not want to leave.  But all of these things certainly make me wonder if it is time.  So, my dear readers, I ask you.  Has it all been worth it?  Is it achievable?  Have my and others personal sacrifices been worth it?  How can I continue to do what I know in my heart is right? More importantly, should I?