Monday, February 24, 2014

Did You Just Call My Kid a Tomboy?

Did You Just Call My Kid a Tomboy?
My twin daughters just turned 7. Their interests range from My Little Pony to digging in dirt to shooting Nerf guns to engaging in planned physical warfare with one asking the other, “Hey, do you want to battle?” They prefer stuffed animals over dolls (actually, they hate dolls), and we hosted a Lego Legends of Chima party for their birthday.

Ruthie, especially, gravitates more toward activities that traditionally have been considered “boy” interests. Her favorite colors are blue and red, her best friends are boys, and most days she prefers to play Legends of Chima or TMNT at recess. She avoids skirts and dresses like the plague. As a toddler, she wore Lightening McQueen and Thomas the Train t-shirts. I’ll admit, in the early years I worried about her love of all things “boy.” Even more so when she told me she wanted to be a one.

But I soon traded those worries for reality. I was blessed with a smart and sweet little girl with a variety of interests who prefers the toys and clothes geared toward boys over the pink and purple frills that delight so many girls. I think that's awesome. And if it makes her happy, who really cares?

That’s why I was was a tad shocked and even a little offended when a classmate’s mother asked, “Is she a tomboy?”

Some part of me - the Ideal Reality part - thought gender roles had evolved beyond that term. I thought most people believed that girls have every right to engage in activities all along the gender spectrum. I thought the label “tomboy” had fallen out of favor. Apparently not. Yet, when I think about it, I recall all the times I tried to find red or blue girls clothes among the cotton candy pinks and purples that still dominate the girls' department. Or the challenges I've had in find a dressy outfit that wasn't a dress. Mission impossible unless I'm willing to pay some big bucks. Toys for girls? Dolls, makeup, jewelry kits. (Although Nerf is stepping up its game with the Rebel series. But even those weapons are pink and purple.)

According to The Grammarphobia Blog, the word tomboy popped up around 1553 as a term to describe a “rude or boisterous” boy. Twenty-five years later, tomboy defined a bold or immodest woman, and 15 years after that it was “applied to a girl who acted like a spirited or boisterous boy,” which is the meaning used today.  There’s no denying that both of my girls can be spirited and boisterous. Most girls can. As can most boys.

Look up “tomboy” on, and synonyms include “butch,” “lesbian” and “dyke.” Really? Seriously?

Not everyone views the word with a negative connotation. Articles such as “How to Be a Tomboy,” offer step-by-step guidance, and there are entire fashion sites and blogs that focus on “tomboy” style.

I do know this: My daughter thinks it has a negative connotation. Every time someone says the word, or applies it to her, she gets an odd look on her face. Like she’s done something wrong. It’s sad. She just wants to like what she likes and be happy. She’s 7, and she doesn't understand society and it’s desire to pigeon-hole people and guide their interests based on outdated thinking. I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure she stays engaged in the things she genuinely enjoys. Like I tell her when she asks me if I like something she's interested in, “It doesn't matter if I like it. If you like it and it makes you happy, that’s what counts.”

Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing … Keep It Real.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Who Can That Be Knockin' At My Door? Probably Not Opportunity

Who Can That Be Knockin' At My Door? Probably Not Opportunity
Ambitious. Entrepreneurial. Motivated. Engaged. Networked. These descriptors define today’s success makers, people who don’t wait for opportunity to find their door, but who actively seek and create their own reality.

Opportunity creators possess three basic traits:

1. They say “Yes” more than they say “No.”
2. They don’t let fear become an obstacle.
3. They are willing to take a step down to achieve their goals.

Say “YES!” If you believe that opportunity is everywhere, you will find it. Open you mind, heart, eyes and ears. When an interesting prospect lands on your plate, even one you’re not quite sure about, say, “Yes!” Take that risk. Doing so might give you more of a challenge than you anticipated, but that challenge translates into experience. At the very least, you will expand your network of personal and professional contacts and gain a better understanding of the type of work you enjoy - or don’t enjoy - doing.

Kick fear to the curb. Saying “Yes!” almost always comes with a side of fear. Stepping outside of your comfort zone is hard. It’s scary. There is usually some rejection involved. But it's also pretty exciting. I recently made the decision to expand my freelance services by pitching articles to publications outside of my realm of expertise. I love researching projects, interviewing sources, crafting pitches and writing stories. But hitting the “Send” button and releasing that pitch to unfamiliar editors terrifies me. The fear of rejection can stop me cold. I give myself a pep talk before I send each e-mail, and remind myself that doing something is better than doing nothing. But it’s still heart-stopping frightening.

Take a step back. This one is tough, but if you really want to take create an opportunity, you might have to take a step down. I cut my editing and writing teeth in the print publishing world, and now I’m transitioning into digital media, social media and marketing. When my contract position with a local company ended, I went to my boss and expressed interest in working as a “floater” in the marketing department, where I could learn about web publishing, advertising, video creation and the like. Since my knowledge in these areas was limited, I offered a lower rate than what I would normally charge. I submitted a formal proposal that outlined how my current experience could benefit the company, and we are currently in the process of working out the details. It helped that I began reading recommended digital marketing blogs and books so I could offer practical ideas tailored to meet the company’s specific needs.

What about you? What tips do you have for creating your own opportunities, be they personal or professional?

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing ... Keep It Real.

Monday, February 10, 2014

7 Books That Will Feed Your Heart, Soul and Mind

7 Books That Will Feed your Heart, Soul and Mind
Every so often, I’ll comb through my bookshelves to see what forgotten gems I've stacked there over time.

On my last pass, I found seven books that I've held onto over the years because they fed my heart, soul and mind in one way or another.

The next time you’re feeling a little empty inside, or 
a little lost, or a little lonely, or just hungry for a different perspective, fill your reading platter with one of these.

I'm always looking for reading recommendations! What books have you read that filled your heart, soul and mind? Please share in the comments! 

Wherever you are whatever you're doing ... Keep It Real.

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Gen Xer’s L.A.M.E. Attempt at Raising Digital Natives

Cable TV, Atari, landlines with twisty cords, call waiting. These things were high tech in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, my formative childhood years. Computers in every home? Take your science fiction fantasy elsewhere, bub. Over time, as computer technology progressed I mastered word  processing, desktop computers and the Internet. And today, while I’m certainly not a digital whiz, I do ok with my various devices and apps. I got my digital savvy going on.

But Holy Mother of Electronics do things get a whole lot more complicated when lifesuckers kids enter picture! You see, I’m a Gen Xer raising two Digital Natives. My twin peeps turned 7 last month. They barely remember that we used to have a phone plugged into a wall jack.  Trying to describe to them a world in which smartphones, apps, touch screens and computers didn’t exist (“When I was your age …) really freaks them out. With three computers, four smartphones (long story), a SmartTV and a tablet in the house, my husband and I thought we were doing pretty well. Until our peeps started interacting with other peoples’ peeps. Our electronics can’t hold a fiber optic cable to what their friends own: tablets, iPhones, iPads, gaming systems. You name it, someone their age has it. Blows. My. Gen X-ing. Mind. Not to mention, I don’t have the guts to entrust my peeps unsupervised with devices that cost as much as a car payment.

The Gen Xer in me wants to scream, “Give them a book!” But the educated professional in me knows Digital Natives need to develop digital skills now so they are prepared to go out into the world and be productive members of society later (like in 11 years. 18 and gone, baby.)

On the other hand, I worry about allowing them too much screen time. And depending on which expert I listen to, using computer time as a reward is either totally acceptable or as damaging as sticking kids outside slathered with anything less than 100 SPF sunscreen.

Even if I wanted to put more restrictions on their screen time, I’m in a bind because pretty much everything they do at school is tied to a computer. As I type this, I’m looking at four different sheets of paper listing four different school-related online programs and their log ins (actually, multiple those numbers by 2). Additionally, our district is progressing toward the flipped classroom style of learning. Poof! The fine line between leisure and academic just imploded. Or was that my head?

We do have a system in place to (attempt) to keeps things under control. And truth be told, most of the games the peeps play encourage creativity, critical thinking, role playing, problem solving and development of social etiquette skills. (I can justify pretty much anything). Some of their favorites are Animal Jam and Minecraft. With my husband, they play NetHack. And I found this article, 3 Things Parents Should Know About Video Games and Kids by Jordan Shapiro. It really helped me get a grip and eased my angst about the peeps and technology.  

And, I created this little acronym to help me out. Perhaps you will find it useful, too. It’s L.A.M.E.

Learn: Stay on top of what my kids are doing online. Spend time with them while they are on the computer, and educate myself about the positives and negatives of technology.

Accept: Times are a’changin.’ We will never again know a world without high tech technology, so deal.

Manage: I am the parent. It’s my job to help the peeps make good choices and manage their time both online and offline.

Embrace: The online world is full of possibilities, explorations and adventures!

By the way, as I was typing this, my husband walked by. He’s the Director of IT at his company. He said that the pressure of managing our systems at home was way more stressful that at his job.

How about you? If you are a Gen Xer in a Digital Native’s world, I’d love to hear how you are transition to all technology, all the time.

Wherever your are, what ever you’re doing … Keep It Real.