2020: Made to See

20/20 was previously associated in my mind with perfect vision. Prior to 2019, I longed for the clarity that the number brought.

But after the year that was last year, I know see 2020 as the Christmas Carol of years. The ghosts of America’s Christmas past (slavery/racism), present (pandemic), and future (climate change), came into the forefront.

And, much like Ebenezer in the well-known tale, we have an opportunity to turn this shit around. The forewarning should be heeded. This is the impetus for us engage in best practices.

Anti-racism

I am not trying to pretend that I am an expert in anything. So please do not take my tips as anything more than well-meaning suggestions. To work on your own thinking the best thing you can do is look for content from various mediums.

One of the things that I do to break my own stereotyped or unbalanced thinking is to read. So try it. Read books about how to combat racism or that re-educate prior thinking. I also seek out documentaries and positive films. Watch movies that highlight the potential of people of races other than your own. And most importantly, think before you speak. Force yourself to think differently. Be kind. Be sensitive. Don’t joke about people’s differences. Look at others as fully realized people. Don’t make assumptions about other people.

Pandemic

I don’t foresee my life returning to the “pre-pandemic” normal. No. I have learned too much. Instead, I see myself adopting new practices that were learned in 2020 to maintain my health. First, masks. It goes without saying that I will continue to wear masks and socially distance until I complete the round of vaccines. I encourage all to do so. But, even after that I will continue to incorporate them into daily life. I intend to wear masks out in public anytime I feel under the weather. I do not intend to return to the practice of shaking hands. Most importantly, I intend to maintain the practice of being grateful and kind to all front line workers.

Climate Change

Although climate change always feels monumentally large, remember that everyone must make changes in their behavior to improve our planet’s health. During the lockdown that started in March, the planet saw small improvements to the carbon emissions. This was a surprising benefit of the pandemic. But, it did encourage me to think more about the planet’s nonhuman inhabitants. I placed food receptacles out for squirrels and birds in my backyard. I have continued that practice into the winter. I have had the benefit of seeing bluejays and cardinals even into December.

Of course, feeding a few small creatures is not enough. Other things that I am trying to do are using my vehicle less and being less wasteful. Other opportunities that we can all take include: buying local products to reduce your carbon footprint, donating to worthwhile causes, and participating in waterway or roadside cleanups. Plus, the most important thing we can all do is encourage corporations whose products we buy to make more environmentally conscious choices. After all, it is corporations that are the biggest contributors to climate change.

Invest In You

2020 has been a year fraught with stress and surprises. One thing that has been helpful to me has been to focus inward.

For years, I promised myself that I would become fluent in four languages before I die. It is a bucket list goal that I have nurtured since youth. In high school, I studied French. I learned a great deal from my one year of study. In years later, I maintained my knowledge through different techniques. But, I was far from fluent.

A few years ago, my husband and I traveled to the Dominican Republic. There, we met and connected with a couple from Brazil. Although neither of them knew English, I was able to communicate with them by speaking in Spanish. And, my Spanish speaking skills somehow facilitated my ability to understand their Portuguese.

Fast forward to the pandemic lockdown in March and April; I decided to pursue an item from my bucket list. I began to learn a foreign language, Portuguese, with Duolingo.

My language practice became very important to me. I appreciated the consistency that this program has given me during these last few months. And, I am happy to finally be working towards a long-time goal. I do believe that my Portuguese-speaking skills have been aided by my prior knowledge of Spanish. Nonetheless, my progress has been substantial. I am able to comprehend a large amount of Portuguese. More importantly, I am finding great joy in my studies.

If you are interested in investing in yourself, consider the following:

Invest Money

I have paid for a Duolingo membership. I practice 10-30 minutes each day. This program gives me a solid base on which I am building daily. But, there are applications that I have already been paying for that I can now use to enhance my language skills. I am watching Portuguese movies on Netflix and other streaming services.

Invest time

As stated above, I work on my language skills about 10 to 30 minutes daily. However, there are other ways that I invest time on my new language skills. I have enjoyed watching Brazilian programs on streaming networks. When I do use a TV show or movie to “study” I do two things. I watch the same movie twice. I read it with Portuguese subtitles and English language. Then, I watch with Portugues dubbing and English subtitles.

I listen to podcasts on Apple. The programs run between nine to twenty minutes. They are great commuting material. However, it is a good idea to go back and listen to the podcast one more time. I like to stop the podcast to practice with the podcaster. It gives me another opportunity to improve.

Another way in which I invest a little time is by reading Portuguese magazines, newspapers, and websites. Even 5 to 10 minutes daily of this type of reading, once or twice per week improves my language comprehension.

Invest in People

Of course, no language skill can be complete without investing in speaking and social opportunities. After all, the purpose of acquiring a new language is to increase your ability to connect with other humans. I have had it a little easier than most in this department. One of my co-workers speaks Portuguese. As such, I am able to engage in light conversation with him.

In time, I will need to actively create more speaking opportunities for myself. At that point, I foresee scheduling coffee talks with my colleague in person. Additionally, I have a Brazilian friend that I want to engage with remotely via Zoom.

I hope you will excuse my language-laden post. But, I promise you can apply the ideas that I shared here to any goal you may have. Once you decide to invest in yourself, your next step is to decide how you will invest your time and money into this goal. And, if you need someone to brainstorm, hit me up in the comments. I would love to help you create a plan.

The truth is that you are worth investing time, money and attention. You can start today by asking yourself…

How will you invest in you?

Power of the Pocketbook

I am not someone who loves to shop. But, I will shop for good causes. I will buy items from friends who are in direct sales. I will stop at a roadside stand to support a local business person. I shop the small businesses in my town whenever I can. And… I am the person who will not go to a place if that business does not align with my belief system.

Case in point…

For years, I have avoided places like Hobby Lobby and Chick Fil A because I do not like the causes that they support. I do not hate on them. But, I will never volunteer to go to these places. In fact, if others suggest I will politely decline. I simply say, “I do not patronize that business.” I just do not make a big showing of it.

Now, I want to make a big showing of it.

On July 8th, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Trump administration regulation that allows businesses to opt out of providing their employees (through health insurance) free birth control. Businesses are permitted to do this if they have “religious and moral objections.”

Prior to this administration’s regulation update, an Obamacare mandate required company health insurance policies to cover birth control. As a result, millions of Americans had access to free contraceptives. Now, thanks to this SCOTUS decision, those same people will now incur out of pocket costs for their contraceptive care.

When I heard about this case, I was disappointed. This is just one of many cases where I see companies putting their needs above their employees. I am tired of seeing companies litigate against their employees best interests. It seems as though companies only want to look at their bottom line.

But, I think consumers have tremendous power to make companies reconsider how they treat their employees. I ask each of you to recognize the incredible power of your pocketbook. By publicly voicing our dissatisfaction and committing to avoiding businesses that litigate against their employees’ best interest, we use our power.

This is not a new idea. Delores Huerta and the farm workers union used such a similar technique by encouraging Americans to boycott grapes. This technique has proven successful. Additionally, thanks to social media and corporate presence on those same website, consumers have more voice now than ever with American businesses. So now the piece remaining is you. Start using the power of your pocketbook at businesses that promote their employees’ best interests.

How do you use the power of your pocketbook?

Show me the love

“It ain’t the money or the diamond rings, honey I ain’t impressed with your material things” *

I spend a lot of time thinking about love. You see, in my spare time, I am writing a fictional romance set in my hometown of Manhattan, Kansas. In the last nine months, I have spent time writing, thinking, and researching ideas for this story. In that time, I have made several observations. The clearest of these observations? Many people believe that romance and love are demonstrated through showy displays of affection or gifts of material possession.

Americans we are a materialistic society. We marvel in the latest gadgets and newest toys. We liken success with an ever increasing ability to purchase. Thus, it makes sense that when it comes to romance we would do the same. We want a romantic partner to surprise and delight us with the best of everything.

So when we see these displays of attention they impact the way one considers even our own relationships. Right? As we scroll through people’s flashy proposals or other type of attention getting display of affection, a small part of us wonders why our other half doesn’t do the same for us. And that’s when the harm really happens. Little by little we begin to compare ours with another’s. And, when we do not have those same things happening for us, we decide there is something missing in the relationship in which we are involved.

That’s the worst thing that we can do. Comparison is the thief of joy. All of a sudden your spouse picking up dinner from a drive thru isn’t as special as that fabulous weekend getaway that your BFF got from her honey and posted photos about last week.

The worst part of this type of comparison is that it causes one to become completely self absorbed.

“Why doesn’t my honey do this for me?” We complain.

But here’s another question we should be asking, why don’t you do the thing you want for your honey? Why not make your person feel as special as you want to feel? More importantly, why does a display of affection require any type of material possession? Why does true love equal a weekend getaway or a shiny new bauble? I don’t know that it does.

I feel this type of pressure most around my birthday. People know that my husband is a person who is generous with his time and money. But, I normally encourage him to avoid extravagant displays of affection.

After all, how much someone spends on you is not a direct correlation to how much they care for you.

Does it matter to you how much your partner spends on you?

*Lyric taken from Paula Abdul’s ‘It’s just the way that you love me.”

Support Your Sisters

Ayuda a tus hermanas.

Whether you say it in English or Spanish, supporting other women is important.

Over the course of the last year, I have had complex feelings about what it means to be a woman in this world. On the one hand, I feel comfortable identifying as woman. I always have. I have never minded the mandates and conventions placed upon my gender even though I may not have always abided by them. But over the last year, I have found the cultural backlash against women to be overwhelming. Depressing even.

For that reason, I plan to make 2021 my Women’s Appreciation Year. This means that I am going to take active steps to appreciate and support women. I endeavor to fully embrace this concept in a number of ways.

Arts

In the arts arena, I intend to focus my purchasing power on female artists, authors, actors, and musicians. Beyond that, I am going to take extra steps to introduce my friends and family to those that I love. As gifts, I will consider giving the gift a of book written by a woman. I will write a positive review about a blogger and share her through my social media. I will create a playlist with women’s music that moves me and share it to my colleagues.

Business

There are many ways to support your sisters in business. First, contemplate all of the friends and family members you have that are in direct sales. Second, think of all of the things you purchase from your favorite big box retailer. Finally, think of the friends that you can purchase from instead of the retailer. Need skin care? Talk to your cousin who sells Rodan and Fields. Want to try a new mascara? Give your friend whose been a long-time Mary Kay consultant a call.

The key to purchasing from friends in this manner is to purchase ahead of your needs. You do not have the luxury of running out of a product when you purchase the direct sales method because it can take a few days for your purchases to come in.

From there, expand your horizons. Check out women owned businesses in your town. Don’t know how to find them? Call your local chamber of commerce or use your favorite search engine to discover women owned businesses.

Professionals

I am talking attorneys, accountants, and doctors. If you have never done so, consider hiring a female professional. If finding a female professional seems onerous, stop sweating. Call your state’s accounting, bar, or medical association for a list of referrals. Ask your friends and family members about professionals they have used in the past. Finally, start looking at business websites after a search engine check of “Female Attorney” (or accountants or doctors) and the name of your city.

Now it’s your turn…

How do you plan to support women in 2021?