Archive for the ‘Familly’ Category

Lean In

I’m coming out of retirement for a short review of Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In.

As a newly working mom (a couple years now), I was looking forward to reading this book. I had read an article about Sandberg in the New Yorker, and I liked the fact that she championed finding your career first before having children.

The career advice in this book is beneficial to both men and woman. Make sure your voice is heard. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Make sure you have a seat at the table. Be an advocate for yourself. Don’t be your worst critic. According to Sandberg these things are essential for a woman to advance their career. The short answer is of course this is sound advice.

On the other hand, there are huge things to consider before embarking on this approach. I myself have struggled from making $12 an hour to a good job as a Senior Software Engineer. I can’t stress enough that this was not an easy trajectory. And here is what I think needs to be emphasized. You can do everything that Sandberg recommends, and you can be an extremely talented person, but if you are in the wrong place it will fail spectacularly.

I have worked at least two places where being frank, bold, talented, smart, and outspoken worked against me rather than for me. At least one of these places was like this due to sexism. There are some work places that will resent you more for your talent. It seems bizarre. You would think most work places would want talented good employees, but some dysfunctional places would prefer a subservient employee who knows their place than a bold super performer.  Odd, but true. So here’s my advice. When you discover yourself to be in one of these places, get out. Don’t try to change them. Find a new place and hope to find one that is more amenable to your success. There are a lot of bad places out there. Don’t burn bridges but keep moving until you find a place that appreciates your talents. That is the best place to grow.

It’s been written already, but Sandberg focuses a bit too much on what women are doing wrong rather than the deficiencies of the system. I have known timid men who don’t get ahead. It’s not about characteristics of women that prevent them from getting ahead. I have known both men and women who have failed to get ahead due to being too afraid to lean in. So failure to “lean in” can’t be the only problem. I think Sandberg gives men an easy way to say, see we don’t need to change. It’s women who need to be bolder. That fails to take into account women who are bold but still experience the glass ceiling.

Not everyone can be a leader. Note to readers I am not a leader. This book is no secret formula. Some people just don’t have it in them to push ahead (lean in). They expect their talents to be noticed but don’t go out of their way to get themselves noticed. I think this usually happens due to some people being raised to be humble. Humility does little in the workplace.

I always use the Keanu Reeves example. I read somewhere that he dissed Kenneth Branaugh’s Hamlet to Branaugh’s face. Think about the character of Reeves. He’s one of the worst actors ever but he sincerely doesn’t know it. Think of all the people along the way that have noticed his extreme lack of talent. High school counselors, agents, directors, fellow actors, parents, friends. Many helpful people probably told him that he should pursue another interest. He didn’t listen. He became a successful actor. With no talent. Humility will prevent a good actor from getting ahead. Lack of humility can create a Keanu Reeves.

Sandberg’s chapters on men sharing more of the household work are spot on. Many of the couples I know now including myself are pretty equitable, so the good news is that this is a realizable goal for women.

A lot has been written about Sheryl Sandberg’s privileged and why this book fails to acknowledge that her experience is hardly transferable. True. She doesn’t exactly help herself by telling us Larry Summers approached her about being her adviser at Harvard. Then there was the treasury job with Summers. Then there was the job at Google and then an offer from LinkedIn. It’s a little tone-deaf because how many of us are going to even get in for an interview at Google or LinkedIn the startups with no experience. She had no experience.

And yet that is not the most tone-deaf part of the book. It comes when she talks about how important it was for her and her husband to stay in the same city so that they could raise their children and how her husband was struggling with flying from L.A. to the Bay Area on the weekends to be with the kids. Well readers when such a thing happens, don’t despair. All you need do is find a job at a new company and move that company’s headquarters to the Bay Area. Hear that? Work for Boeing and live in Bakersfield? Have Boeing move their company headquarters. Problem solved.

But wait there’s more. Sandberg’s husband’s company was SurveyMonkey in Portland. They are now based in Northern California. I live in Seattle. I like the Pacific Northwest. I don’t want to live in California. Maybe some SurveyMonkey employees felt the same way. So moving to NoCal might have helped Sandberg’s family, but possibly at the cost of some pretty decent Portland families. Yeah, life sucks sometimes.

Finally, Sandberg says you can continue the discussion by finding the Facebook Lean In page. Well guys, guess what? I’m not on Facebook and I’m not going on Facebook. So there you go. My review stays here.

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Here is a very strange op-ed in the L.A. Times. A man writes a tribute to his now dead father. His father is responsible for his son being able to walk.

He then tells us how he watched his father die when he came upon his dad and another woman having sex on the kitchen floor while his mom was in the hospital. Heart attack. The writer also talks about the time his father bought boxing gloves for him and proceeded to beat his son to a bloody pulp. At the age of 13. Oh and then there was that time when he duct-taped his son to a kitchen chair and then turned on the electric knife and pointed it at his son.

Well I guess we all have heart-warming stories like that to share on fathers day. Not.

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Is it just me or do these guys look just as bad in the “after” pictures as in the before? Sure, it’s a different bad, but…

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BEDFORD, Ohio — An Ohio man who argued with his grown son over a messy bedroom says he overreacted when he called 911.

Ahhh, memories of my youth. Granted I wasn’t an adult like this guy in the story, but I remember being 16 and having to knock through the kitty door in order to get into my house. I had forgotten my keys, something I always did as a kid. Well my dad took my car keys away from me for good for that infraction. So in protest I threw my clothes all around my room. My dad then called my mom and asked whether or not he could put me in juvenile hall because I had gone “crazy.”

Ahh, it’s so funny now.

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I’ve never been wowed by an editorial by Roland Smith on CNN, but this one about international adoption has a lot of interesting points. He starts out by asking why are celebrities adopting foreign children instead of choosing from the many American children that need homes. He then goes on to say:

According to various adoption and governmental agencies, more than 500,000 American children are under foster care, and many of them are waiting for adoption. From coast to coast, babies to toddlers to teens are desperately looking for a home where they can be loved, nurtured and provided for.

Now, it would be easy to blast these celebrities by saying it’s the hip thing to walk around with an international child, but truth be told, we’ve got a serious adoption problem in this country.

Single mothers have a difficult time adopting a child, and several I know personally have gone overseas. And let’s not even talk about the red tape and bureaucracy!

American parents are made to jump through enormous hoops, and the process takes years, instead of months. And all too often, single people and married couples simply grow disenchanted with the process.

I have definitely heard from single women that they are not encouraged to be foster parents. The worry is that they could be (gasp!) gay, and that’s why they are single.

I find this commentary interesting because I hear a lot of people these days talking about the overpopulation of the planet and how it is better to adopt a child than bring a child into an environment already burdened by people. This really is a bourgeois argument. Many people can’t afford adoption. In-vitro fertilization, the most expensive fertility treatment, is still cheaper than adoption. The most affordable way to have a child is the old-fashioned way.

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How is that not welfare?

I’ve been trying to ignore this ridiculous story of one Nadya Suleman who has had 14 children through in vitro fertilization, but this exchange keeps gnawing at me:

In segments of the interview that ran on the TODAY show on Monday and Tuesday, Suleman had said that she does not get welfare despite the food stamps she gets or the government payments for three children with varying disabilities — a son who is autistic, another child with ADHD and a third who is developmentally delayed in learning to speak. She also said she is able to provide for her children.

Tuesday night on Dateline, Suleman said that she is also in debt.

“How much in debt do you have now?” Curry asked.

“Probably 50. Close to 50,” she said.

“Thousand dollars?” Curry responded.

Suleman nodded.

“How is that not like welfare?” Curry pressed on.

“Oh, no,” Suleman protested. “These are student loans. You consolidate the loans, you pay it back. We don’t pay back welfare.”

This is not that uncommon of a phenomenon. A middle class person bemoans the poor and the poor’s dependence on public funds when they themselves are also are living off the public. Does Suleman outright say that she doesn’t like the poor? No, but the mere fact that she is distancing herself from them despite accepting food stamps and public assistance tells a lot. What a pathological lack of self-reflection. We have seen this earlier this year in another “pop news” story, that of Joe-he-ain’t-a-plumber.

I get angry when I read things like this because the poor get a bad rap. The same people who call them lazy, deserving of their position and bloodsuckers are the ones who wouldn’t bat an eyelid about taking public assistance if they fell on hard times. Yet even in such cases, wouldn’t dare acknowledge the similarity of their predicaments. Others are undeserving, but we are different.

Lastly, Suleman is doing herself any favors by talking about how she will get out of her financial predicament through consolidating loans. As the mortgage crisis shows, willfully getting into enormous debt that you cannot repay is not good for you or the rest of the country.

Photo via Susan Campbell’s blog.

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For whatever reason I was thinking about the making of the birthday cake in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.

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Many of you have read about my conversations with my mother regarding Barack Obama and the state of our country here and here. In particular I have spoken about how it pains me to hear my mother, a Thai woman once married to a white American man, talk about her doubts about Barack Obama because of the color of his skin. While it pains me to hear her words, I applaud her for her honesty. We can’t get beyond where we are now without honestly reflecting on our prejudices.

In the days before the election, I thought that I was gaining ground with her. I thought that I may be able to convince her to vote for Barack Obama to “give it a try” as I said. If she wasn’t satisfied she could vote for someone else in 2012. She admitted to me that she could not vote for John McCain given the last 8 years of Republican rule, and so I naively thought that the step to vote for Obama would not be that big of one. I thought to myself that if I couldn’t get my mother, an intelligent woman greatly disillusioned with the Republicans, to vote for Obama, what hope did I have that anyone would vote for him? In the end, she didn’t vote for President at all.

After four days of knocking on doors for the Obama campaign in Colorado, I was in the ballroom of the Sheraton hotel on election night along with thousands of people as we all heard the election declared for Obama. At that moment, I still had hope that my mother had voted for Obama and I briefly contemplated giving her a call in my happiness. The noise in the room prevented me from doing so.

The next day I flew back to Seattle and I called my mother as soon as I got back. I was elated after my hard week of working for the campaign. When I got her on the phone, her voice was bitter. “You may think that this person will solve all your problems, but you are wrong. And it doesn’t matter that everyone likes him in the rest of the world. The world loved Kennedy, but in America he was not well liked.” The conversation was not what I expected.

This past week, these wounds have been reopened. I spoke to my dad who was bemoaning the stimulus package talking about how this was debt I would be paying for the rest of my life. Don’t I know it, I thought.  But I told him that he and every Republican lacked any credibility whatsoever in this argument. The Republicans were responsible for needlessly increasing the debt which he somehow never cared about before, and they themselves were responsible for the removal of the regulations that would have prevented a collapse in the financial industry that resulted in the need for a bailout in the first place. My mom has been making comments about how Democrats love to spend. That’s what they are all about, she says.

It struck me this morning as I woke up, that even they cannot ruin this day for me. I am sure they must be completely flabbergasted at the spectacle that is this inauguration. This inauguration is surely unprecedented in its national importance not just in my life but in theirs. The crowds, how can they be this big, they may be thinking. I suppose when your confidence and respect for your country has been systematically chipped away at for the last eight years, you will be elated at the possibility of restoring its image. And this is the thing that the Republicans seem not to understand. People want Obama to succeed. People want to hope that there is something better around the corner. Any obstruction the Republicans create will be taken badly. It’s a difficult position that they are in though I can’t feel sorry for them considering it is one of their own creation.

It’s a changing of the guards. We are weary of bitterness and division. We want to hope. We want to have something to believe in. We want Obama to succeed. I don’t know what the next four years will bring. Despite my hope, I am a realist and I know that there is the potential for Obama to fail in my estimation. I worry about my job and my life and what this recession will bring. Nonetheless I hope for the best, and I have faith in the man who will lead our country in the next four years.

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Previously I posted about attending the Dina Martina Christmas Show. One of the shticks of Dina Martina is mispronounce words on purpose. Gifts are “jifts” for instance. Dina admits that giving “jifts” is so much more fun than giving “gifts.”

Here also is a quote from an interview in today’s Seattle Times where she gets the expression wrong — another tendency of hers.

However, there’s a certain je ne sais pas about your moist region that is undeniable.

I was immediately intrigued by this strange phenomenon as it reminds me very much of my father’s inclination to mispronounce things. What’s more, it’s a phenomenon that I don’t think anyone has every openly discussed before despite being widespread. Why do people do this?

As children, we used  to shop at Mervyn’s but my dad would always say “Merlins” instead. We also used to eat ice cream at “Phipp’s” though to my dad it was always “Pipp’s.” I know he did this on purpose because as children we would harp on and on about how  the words were really supposed to be said. And it didn’t stop there. In the last few years, he’s gotten into the practice of pronouncing the L in salmon.

I think at some level my father knows exactly what he’s doing. It’s like he wants to irk other people in an extremely innocuous but nonetheless annoying way. My dad is from Texas and George W. Bush is from Texas. We all know that George W. Bush looooves mispronouncing nuclear as “nuculor,” and his father before him loved to mispronounce Sadaam Hussein though that was probably for other reasons.

Does anyone have some examples to share?

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Bye bye Jake

Jake was my family’s mutt. There’s some yellow lab there aand I’m not sure what else. I sometimes joke that Jake was the son my father never had.

When I was sixteen, we picked him up from a rather eccentric vet who later lost his practice due to drug abuse. Jake was out in a field along with a horse.   The horse flies nibbled away at the hair on his ears and it took a good while after we took him in for the hair to grow back. Up until we got him our family were devoted cat people, but after Jake my parents were all about dogs.

Jake was a very hyper dog. When we took him home, he jumped out of the car and ran around the block a few times. He then jumped into a neighbor’s fish pond from which he could not get out of. When we pulled him out and let him inside the house, he jumped over the couch instead of going around it. It was a tough couple of days.

But later he became part of the family. I could tell a lot of jokes about my parents’ undying devotion to this dog, but I’ll save that for a book if I ever write one. They are rather cut up about his passing just yesterday. So here’s a tribute to Jake. This picture is from last year.

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Mormons surprise me

Here’s an article from the Salt Lake City Tribune about how the LDS is fighting to get gay marriage banned in California.

The LDS Church’s campaign to pass Proposition 8 represents its most vigorous and widespread political involvement since the late 1970s, when it helped defeat the Equal Rights Amendment. It even departs from earlier efforts on behalf of traditional marriage, in which members felt more free to decide their level of involvement.

This time, LDS leaders have tapped every resource, including the church’s built-in phone trees, e-mail lists and members’ willingness to volunteer and donate money. Many California members consider it a directive from God and have pressured others to participate. Some leaders and members see it as a test of faith and loyalty.

Why am I surprised by this? I have had relatively large contact with Mormons both in high school and later when I worked various jobs in California. Honestly the Mormons I met were some of the nicest people I’ve ever come in contact with. In high school they were the smartest kids and usually very popular. On the other hand they weren’t mean like many of the other popular kids.

Call me biased but when I read about fundamentalist Christians in America I get scared. I’ve never felt that way about Mormons. My impression is that they are not trying to take over the country in the same way the Focus on the Family fundies do.

So I admit I am perplexed by this latest effort in California. Why would a marginalized group support the marginalization of another group? It just doesn’t make sense to me and it doesn’t fit in with the kindness that I have witnessed from Mormons over the years. It is sad for me to think about this church in this new way.

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The best photographers show us the moments that we can’t see in moving pictures. Earlier I wrote about how pictures of Obama’s family reminded me how in the end he is just a father, a husband, a man, and a human being.

Lola has some great photos of children and Obama which you can find at the Chawed Rosin. Today, I found some more great photos.You can see more photos from the set below at Callie Shell’s Digital Journal which also include the photographer’s captions. I highly recommend you check them out.

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I hate to get into cliche marital territory here, but I’m thinking that Polldaddy being added to wordpress is the perfect thing to convince my husband of universal norms which he is unaware of.

So here’s my first one.

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Here’s an interesting article on parents who use corporal punishment in order to discipline their children. Instead of looking at the psychological affects on the child, it looks at the psychological and “addictive” affects on the parent.

But parents keep on hitting. Why? The key is corporal punishment’s temporary effectiveness in stopping a behavior. It does work—for a moment, anyway. The direct experience of that momentary pause in misbehavior has a powerful effect, conditioning the parent to hit again next time to achieve that jolt of fleeting success and blinding the parent to the long-term failure of hitting to improve behavior. The research consistently shows that the unwanted behavior will return at the same rate as before. But parents believe that corporal punishment works, and they are further encouraged in that belief by feeling that they have a right and even a duty to punish as harshly as necessary.

My parents very much believed in corporal punishment. In fact, I love the scene from Mommie Dearest with the wire coat hangers because it gives me slight vindication thinking that my mother’s proclivity to hit me with wire coat hangers is considered so bad that it’s the most crucial scene in a film about abuse. Does that make me weird?

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Here’s a hilarious article — at least for me. It’s all about married women who have decided to be stay at home wives even though they don’t have children. I’m sorry for laughing at these women, but I do think the writer of the article is making them sound absurd.

Ten years ago, she was an “overwhelmed” high school English teacher. “I didn’t have time for my husband, ” she says, “and I didn’t have a life.”

She presented the idea of staying home to her husband, a Web engineer. “I told him it was something I wanted to do, and he supported it. It was a great relief.”

Davis says her life isn’t luxurious. “Tuesdays are my laundry day,” she says. “I go grocery shopping on Wednesdays and clean house on Thursdays.” Mondays and Fridays are reserved for appointments and other errands.

But her schedule also allows for charity work and leisure: reading, creative writing and exploring new hobbies, like sewing.

“I was able to clip coupons, do all the chores and make nice dinners,” she says. “I was much less stressed and tense.”

To each his own.

One thing this article doesn’t mention is how not having a job can make a woman dependent on her husband. Gaps in your career will certainly be noticeable to prospective employers. When my parents first got married, my dad was insistent that my mother not get an education and not get a job. My mom did anyway and that freedom was what allowed her to leave an unsuccessful marriage. She knew she could make it on her own if she had to.

Some of my high school friends’ moms weren’t so lucky. I remember a friend from high school whose marriage was highly dysfunctional, but the mom had no skills and no where to go. She chose to stay. Luckily it wasn’t an abusive relationship, but her husband had no intention of being faithful to her and she had no leverage to get him to change.

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Here’s a family who likes subjecting their children to ridiculous names for the rest of their lives:

When you hear the name “Indiana Jones,” you think of an archaeologist carrying an idol and dodging a giant boulder. When you hear about “Dow Jones,” you might wonder if it’s up or down that day. However, in this case, Indiana and Dow Jones are siblings, 12 and 7 years old, respectively.

Indiana Elizabeth Jones shared her story with the iReport community, and we spoke with her mother, Jennifer Jones. The Port Deposit, Maryland, resident says Indiana got her name simply because her husband’s family is from that state.

As for Dow Joseph Jones, there was serious talk of naming him Jack Ryan Jones, to keep the Harrison Ford theme. (Jack Ryan is the character Ford played in a series of action movies.) Instead, her husband named their son Dow on a dare while Jennifer was asleep in the hospital bed after giving birth.

She said she cried when she found out and even thought about having Dow’s name changed.

Wow. Her husband named his own child based on a dare and she actually thought about changing her son’s name but didn’t.

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I’m not sure why I thought of this memory. Something triggered it from the news.

I remember when I visited my relatives in Thailand a comment that my cousin made that made me uneasy. My relatives wanted so much from me. They wanted me to find a husband for my cousin, a good one they specified; they wanted me to help them out financially, etc. It was extremely overwhelming and I wanted to help them too.

I just agreed to whatever they said as is the American tradition of not being able to say no and just hoping everyone will forget. At one point, my cousin looked at me and said “Daranee is Santa Claus.” Ouch, I’ll never forget it. What a burden and a farce. If I was supposed to be their last hope, I knew I was incapable of doing that.

You want to help so much in this world, but sometimes you can’t.

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Remaining significant is a difficult task for any public leader. The James Dobsons and the Pat Robertsons only have so much power as the number of people they can convince the rest of us they have influence over. It should come as no surprise that some leaders, and even Christian leaders, are charlatans extorting their influence when they in fact have none.

I always liked Huckabee even as I was scared of him. You knew where he stood, and I found admirable his intelligence and bravery in seeing Jeremiah Wright as a human being who deserved understanding. But Huckabee isn’t the nominee. The Christian Right’s leaders rallied around a man who did not extol their own values at all, and who they quite frankly really believed was going to hell. Why? Perhaps because they never believed in their stated values in the first place, who knows? That’s a public leader for you, but it now seems that some of them regret it:

Then, venerable Paul Weyrich—a founder of the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority, and the Council for National Policy (CNP)—raised his hand to speak. In a quiet, brief, but passionate speech, Weyrich essentially confessed that he and the other leaders should have backed Huckabee, a candidate who shared their values more fully than any other candidate in a generation. He agreed with Farris that many conservative leaders had blown it. By chasing other candidates with greater visibility, they failed to see what many of their supporters in the trenches saw clearly: Huckabee was their guy. Members of the group believed that Huckabee was “their guy” from a religious perspective but said he was not quite ready for “prime time.”

If they had backed Huckabee, could he have won the nomination over John McCain? We’ll never know, but what we can definitively say is they blew their opportunity. Instead of backing a winner, they backed a loser. How much influence did they have on their constituents after all? Many went ahead and voted for Huckabee anyway. Many may have voted for McCain. But what they didn’t do is vote for was Romney. I guess these guys didn’t have as much power and influence as they professed.

This is oddly enough the exact same position that Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson find themselves in. Every single time a Don Imus situation comes up, Al and Jesse are there to tell us how we got it wrong. They are there to threaten boycotts and raise ire. Funny that they may not have as much power and influence as they would have us believe. By picking Hillary Clinton as a candidate, they not only loss ground in convincing us they control the black electorate but they lost the few remaining black electorate individuals who listened to them.

What connects these two very different special interest groups is that by changing their minds and going with their supporters once again, they are trying to project the falsehood that they matter.

Article via Wonkette.

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Today I found this excerpt on a Nara National Museum information flyer from my trip to Japan. I thought you might enjoy it.

* The service for man and wife.

Every month 22nd is “The day of man and wife”. Admission is half price when you come to our museum together as man and wife

In addition, November 22nd is “The day of good man and wife”, admission is free for all married couples who come together.

What a charming tradition. I hope all the married couples reading this will remember it on the 22nd of each month.

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