Sunday, December 29, 2013

Josh Hanagarne Revitalizes my “BE Strong” Project

When I selected Josh Hanagarne’s book The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family for the December Savvy Reader Book Club I thought it would be the perfect read to close out my Be Strong reading challenge.  To my surprise instead of wrapping up my project this book inspired me to revitalize it.  Josh’s story helped me realize procuring inner-strength is not something that can be accomplished in one year. It is a life-long project.

Josh who began experiencing symptoms of Tourette's syndrome at the age of six describes Tourette’s syndrome as follows:
In any language, the movement disorder comes down to two things: those with the disorder either move involuntarily, makes noises involuntarily, or both.
He writes:
The worst part of Tourette’s wasn’t the bodily harm or even my inability to go outside sometimes. It wasn’t that I was being driven toward increasing isolation. It was the uncertainty. It felt like driving at night, with headlights coming toward me, and every car seemed to be in my lane. I no longer had a destination. I only knew that everything coming toward me had the potential to wreck me, to derail any plan I could make.
To say Josh's journey towards controlling his Tourette's symptoms was difficult would be an understatement. He tried numerous methods from visiting questionable doctors, to ingesting drugs - Klonopin/Clonezepam, Tetrabenazine, Zyprexa, Risperol, Haldol, Clonidine, even a nicotine patch—none of which helped for more than a few days and most had side effects. After his involuntary outbursts turned to screams, he receives botulism toxin injections that paralyze his vocal chords. These injections reduce his speech to a whisper.

As Josh’s symptoms continue to worsen, they cause increasing turmoil in his life. He leaves his Mormon mission early; he is in and out of jobs as well as college. Eventually he ends up refusing to leave his parent’s couch suffering from a debilitating depression. Thinking his son has zero confidence his father convinces him to try weight training.

Eventually Josh’s strength training leads him to Adam Glass, a strongman and former Air Force tech sergeant. Adam describes a good trainer as someone who gets results and shows clients how to figure something out for themselves. Josh writes:
Working with Adam was the first time someone actually asked me to think about what was actually happening to me. My doctors they never asked how I felt. They treated symptoms.
After coming home from spending a week with Adam, Josh has a breakthrough epiphany - his breathing is the key to controlling his Tourette’s symptoms. He practices taking a lung-filling breath that does not result in a tic. These breaths turned into seconds, seconds into days, days into weeks and weeks.

Unfortunately, Josh’s life does not remain symptom free. While under stress after witnessing early signs of Tourette’s in his son Max, they return with a vengeance. Josh has to begin the process of taming them all over again.  

As I mentioned in my book selection postThe World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family is about much more than Tourette’s, but for me, Josh's battle with Tourette’s is what resonated the most. His trainer Adam says it best:
I don’t know how you do it? Having control of my body is one of the only things that keeps me this sane, and I’m pretty wrecked.
This book has inspired me to improve upon my own inner-strength project. To dig deeper, seek out mentors and trainers that ask the right questions so I too can strengthen my inner core.

Bottom Line:
Despite enjoying The World’s Strongest Librarian and feeling it is a worthwhile read for a strength project it is not a perfect book. Even though - I think - I grasped the gist of the chapter covering the week Josh spent working with Adam it was a cumbersome read that did not improve with a re-reading. I particularly enjoyed learning about his family life, his take on reading, libraries and his experiences working in them. In addition, the section covering the difficulties he and his wife experienced conceiving a child are heartbreaking. Overall though, I am left with a feeling that something is missing.

Have you read this book? If so what were your thoughts?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Savvy Reader Book Gift List

As I was contemplating what to buy friends and family this holiday season I realized many of my favorite reads of 2013 would make excellent gifts. Here is my hypothetical gift list:

For my friend and colleague Kate:

Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. This is the best career book I‘ve read in years and one that I wish I’d read earlier in my career. I recommend this book for any woman who is looking to re-charge her career.

As a companion read I would include:

Debora L. Spar’s Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection.Spar is the president of Barnard College and has written a book about how our culture has evolved in the last 50-years. She details how women struggled to gain power, but instead ended up caught in an endless quest for perfection. I found myself nodding in agreement as Spar describes how women today try to be the perfect wife, the perfect mother and the perfect career person. 

For my sister who is the mother of three children under the age of eight:

Crystal Ponti's The Mother of All Meltdowns: Real Stories of Moms' Finest (Worst, Completely Awful) Moments. When I saw the look on my sister’s face as her 4-year old kept insisting he wasn’t wearing pants or shoes on our outing I realized perhaps motherhood is much harder than I realized. After reading the melt-down moments the authors share in this book I hope my sister learns she is not alone and that there is no such thing as a perfect mom or child. Please see Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection from above.

For my niece who will be moving to Santa Monica by herself next year:

Gavin de Becker's The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence. This book explores how fear is a gift that can be used to keep us safe and explains how we can spot even subtle signs of danger—before it’s too late. Gavin teaches us how to listen to and trust our intuition. I recommend this book to anyone who will be living on their own for the first time.

For the niece who is graduating from college this December and has nothing constructive to do until grad school begins next fall:

Cheryl Strayed's Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar. It could be a coincidence, but after reading this book I snapped out of the funk I had been in for almost a year. I recommend this book - a compilation of Strayed’s Dear Sugar advice columns - to any young adult approaching their quarter-life crises.

For my non-fiction loving friend who read and enjoyed Robert K. Massie's Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman after learning of it from this blog post:

George Parker's The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America. I am currently reading this book and am amazed by how comprehensive it is. Packer follows the lives of several Americans over the past three decades. In doing so he describes how America which was once a super power is beginning to become undone. I recommend this book for anyone who likes to read about current events or who is interested in the increasing disparity between the rich and poor.
Please note, I am an Amazon affiliate

What was your favorite reads of the year? Would you give them as gifts?

Sunday, December 01, 2013

The Savvy Reader Book Club Selection for December

The Savvy Reader Book Club is an online nonfiction book club created for the serious reader. At the beginning of each month I select one or two books; then host discussion posts covering the books throughout the month.  

Since December will most likely be a busy month, I’ve decided to choose just one book this month. The Savvy Reader Book Club selection for December is:

The title of this book is deceiving. Josh may work as a librarian, but this book is about much more than libraries.  As a young boy playing the role of a “tree” in a school play Josh begins twitching uncontrollably. It turns out he has Tourette Syndrome. Eventually he learns to control his tics by lifting weights. This book is a memoir that includes Josh's thoughts and experiences with Tourette’s, faith, strength the power of family, reading and yes occasionally libraries. 

Since I too have been on a strength challenge – attempting to become a stronger person in my 50th year – this book should be the perfect read to close out my Be Strong Reading Challenge. Be Strong was a reading challenge I created for myself to read books covering topics related to inner strength such as confidence, communication skills, working with difficult people, self-knowledge, willpower, etc.

On another note, as a follow-up to last month’s book club selection Seth Godin's Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, I would like to highlight additional books recommended by readers:

Catherine Gacad is currently reading Randi Zuckerberg's book Dot Complicated: Untangling Our Wired Lives:
Randi Zuckerberg is the sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Her book which is part memoir, part how-to manual addresses issues of privacy, online presence, networking, etiquette, and the future of social change. Hmm… this book sounds like a possible future Savvy Reader book club selection.

Mel of brokeGirlrich likes leadership/business books a lot. She loves the One Minute Manager books, especially The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkeyfor delegating. She also loves "personality" books like Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger's book The Art of SpeedReading People: How to Size People Up and Speak Their Language and David Keirsey's Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence which are both Briggs-Meyers related books. I am already a fan of Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger. Their book Do What You Are was instrumental in helping me discover my Myers-Briggs personality type.  I am adding all of these books to my reading list.

Raina Kropp of San Diego HR Mom recommends an alternative book to Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us. She likes Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization by Dave Logan. According to Amazon:
In Tribal Leadership, Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright show corporate leaders how to first assess their company’s tribal culture and then raise their companies’ tribes to unprecedented heights of success. In a rigorous eight-year study of approximately 24,000 people in over two dozen corporations, Logan, King, and Fischer-Wright discovered a common theme: the success of a company depends on its tribes, the strength of its tribes is determined by the tribal culture, and a thriving corporate culture can be established by an effective tribal leader. Tribal Leadership will show leaders how to employ their companies’ tribes to maximize productivity and profit: the author’s research, backed up with interviews ranging from Brian France (CEO of NASCAR) to “Dilbert” creator Scott Adams, shows that over three quarters of the organizations they’ve studied have tribal cultures that are adequate at best.
This book would have made an excellent companion read to Tribes.

Have you read any of these books? If so, what were your thoughts? Do you have any recommendations for future Savvy Reader Book Club selections?

Please Note, I am an Amazon Affiliate

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin

This month one of The Savvy Reader Book Club selections was Seth Godin’s book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us. I chose this book after learning Molly Ford of Smart, Pretty and Awkward recommended reading it.

What is this book about?
Seth Godin describes a tribe as any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader or an idea. In this short book, only 147 pages long, Godin inspires us to embrace our leadership potential and challenge the status quo.

My Thoughts:
I love a good business book. For me a “good” business book helps me understand the current state of business and provides new ideas I can use to improve the organization where I work or to write about on this blog.

Tribes is strong on helping me understand where business is today. Godin feels many organizations are trapped in maintaining the status quo. By doing so they fail to adapt or innovate and end up dying. Think Kodak or the music industry. Much of this is due to companies having a management problem. Godin writes:
Management is about manipulating resources to get a known job done. Burger franchises hire managers. They know exactly what they need to deliver and they are given resources to do it at low cost. Managers manage a process they’ve seen before, and they react to the outside world striving to make the process as fast and as cheap as possible.

Leadership, on the other hand is about creating change that you believe in. (Pgs. 13 - 14) 
This is where this book begins to fall short for me. I can’t exactly march into my manager’s office tomorrow and recommend he get rid of our managers and begin looking for leaders.

What the book does do is provide encouragement and inspiration to those who have an idea or wish to create a tribe and need a push to do so. Godin spends a fair amount of time writing about fear and thinking your way out of it. He also writes about the naysayers and heretics and how they are ultimately the ones who end up demoted, fired, disgraced and unhappy.

Bottom Line:
It’s possible you missed the checklists, the detailed how-to lists, and the For Dummies style instruction manual that shows you exactly what to do to find a tribe and lead it. (Pg. 146) 
That is because there aren’t any. If that is what you are looking for you will be disappointed with this book. This book is actually more of a motivational guide to inspire you to become a leader or to contribute to a tribe. If that is what you are looking for this book will be perfect for you.

Have you read this book? If so what were your thoughts? What business books do your recommend reading?
Femme Frugality

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Finding Employment with a Fashion Merchandising Degree

I recently had a conversation with a young college grad. She graduated last May with a degree in fashion merchandising from a prominent private college. Unfortunately, the only job she has been able to secure is as a retail associate – a job she also held while in college. She interviewed for a buyer position with a major retailer here in Milwaukee, but did not get the job. 

To learn how to stand-out and get hired with a fashion merchandising degree I turned to Mandi Noel from The Cardigan Confessions. Mandi is 24 years old and has a Bachelor’s degree in Fashion Design and a Master’s of Business.

Did you work after receiving your undergraduate degree or go straight to grad school?

I did go straight from undergrad to grad school. It’s not very common for fashion design or merchandising grads to get Master’s degrees, but that’s part of the reason I decided to get one. Anything that can set you apart is a good thing. The two careers I am interested in are apparel product developer and starting my own design business. For both of these, an MBA is a good idea. It’s not a requirement for a buyer, but like I said, it would set you apart, and that’s helpful.

Do you think the above grad needs to move to a larger city? She lives in Milwaukee and has her heart set on becoming a buyer.

As far as the retail job goes, pretty much any job in fashion merchandising requires a certain amount of retail experience. If she didn’t work in retail before graduating, she will most likely have to put in a few years before getting a buyer position. It’s basically like “paying your dues.” Plus, the experience and knowledge you gain is really important to any job you will have in the industry later. Also, it is sometimes easier to move up to a designer or buyer position within a company that you already work with at the store level. I have friends who have become managers at stores and then their district managers have helped them transition into higher positions. As for Milwaukee, I don’t know much about the types of fashion jobs that are available there, but generally, the bigger the city, the more opportunities for fashion jobs. Especially for buyers because many times buying is done at the district level. If Milwaukee is not the district headquarters for many stores, you won’t see a lot of buying positions there. I would say that Chicago probably has the most opportunities in that area of the country.

Anyway, I hope all that is somewhat helpful. I’m not currently working in the industry because my husband is part of a unique program with his job and we’re moving a couple times a year. But I specialize in design, so I’m just doing some artistic stuff on my own for now and am hoping to open a business for myself in a few years.

Another grad is hired as a buyer for the very company my above graduate interviewed with:

Interestingly, as an acquaintance was giving me an update on his daughter – she had just moved to Milwaukee to work as a buyer for a major retailer headquartered here – I realized it was with the very company the graduate from above had interviewed with. His daughter had also graduated in May, with a degree in retail entrepreneurship from the U-W Madison.

What did this graduate have that the graduate from above did not?

According to the new-hire’s father, his daughter’s grades were good, but not stellar. What he thought helped her stand-out from the crowd was her internship. She had spent a semester interning for a prominent retailer in Chicago.

The problem with a degree in Fashion Merchandising is there are usually more applicants than jobs, to stand out from the crowd you need to have experience or qualifications that will out-shine your competition. I recommend the graduate in the above example expand her career search to include companies in Chicago or other major cities. After a few years of relevant work experience, she should then have an easier time finding employment in Milwaukee.  

And for all of you Fashion Merchandising students out there, try to secure the best internship you possibly can while you are in college, even if it means living in an expensive city for a semester.

Do you have recommendations for students studying fashion merchandising to help them stand out from the crowd?

Femme Frugality

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Should Everyone Graduate With a Liberal Arts Degree?

In October The Savvy Reader Book Club read Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus's book Higher Education?: How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids---and What We Can Do About It. An interesting albeit controversial statement the authors make in an interview about their book on NPR is:
If we had it our way, everybody would graduate with a liberal arts degree. Of the three million freshmen who arrive on campuses each September, over half of them - have already chosen vocational majors, like fashion merchandising or sports management. This is a real misuse of what could be four precious, rewarding years.
Take New Mexico’s State University for instance. You will find students majoring in hotel, motel and resort management. Classes for this major include Quantity Food Production, Gaming Operations and Beverage Management. Hacker and Dreifus write:
It isn’t education. It is training. At best, it should be a sequence in a community college or in a professional program at post graduate level. Nor is beverage management an exotic example. Most campuses now devote more resources to vocational concentrations, since their majors now outnumber those in liberal arts fields. In 2008, the most recent figures as we write, degrees in the “hospitality” sphere surpassed those awarded in philosophy. (Pg. 99)
Then there is the business major:
Business is currently the most popular of all undergraduate majors. Regardless of the author’s opinions about whether it rates as higher or even as education, it has gained a prominent place on our campuses, not least by displacing less practical majors. Hacker and Dreifus then looked at what is being taught and learned it its classes. Here is what they found:
On the one hand, half a million freshmen enroll in business programs each year, hoping that what they will learn will give them an extra edge in their subsequent careers. On the other hand, professors are needed if there are to be classes. But it was soon evident to us that it wasn’t completely clear to either professors or students exactly what the students should be learning. Curriculums are filled with lists and locations along with quasi-theories from their field’s academic journals. Professors ask students to play being senior management, and plan corporate strategy ranging from outsourcing sneakers to selling sunglasses.  (Pg. 104)
What should business programs be doing instead?
We’ll start by saying that what is presented in their classes has no relation to what they’ll be doing in their first job. Whether from Wharton or Gulf Coast, when undergraduates emerge with a degree, if the Bank of America hires them, it won’t seat them in boardrooms to plan global strategies. More likely, they will be sent to a Fresno suburb, where their job will be crunching numbers on mortgage applications. Then the newbie will listen while senior colleagues explain how and why they make their decisions. We’d like to think that liberal arts students can just as quickly pick up what will be expected in their first years on the job. (Pg. 104)

We wish we could persuade undergraduates contemplating business majors to choose the liberal arts route. But this won’t be easy so long as anxieties about the future infuse their decisions. A more effective step would be for colleges, whether freestanding or within universities, to simply state that they don’t and won’t offer vocational majors. (Pg. 105)
I’ve heard this statement before. In this report on higher education by Anya Kamenetz she writes:
She would abolish the major of “business,” the single most popular undergraduate major, but perhaps also the least rigorous, and which produces relatively poor-achieving students. Instead, she’d fold practical business classes into the economics major.
I find all of this very interesting, since my undergraduate major was general business. I choose this major thinking I would have more flexibility with my career upon graduation than if I majored in accounting. I didn’t want to end up sitting at a desk all day making journal entries. The funny thing is after I graduated I didn’t feel as if I knew how to do anything. To find a job I emphasized my high school bookkeeping classes and my typing skills until I talked myself into a job in an accounting department – where I would end up sitting in a desk all day making journal entries.

No one bothered to tell me what Sheryl Sandberg also points out in her book Lean-in that the majority of job skills needed are acquired on the job. I would soon learn many of my co-workers at the brokerage firm where I was newly employed had degrees entirely unrelated to their job. This firm wanted employees with a degree, but they didn’t care what that degree was.   

Would I have been better off with a liberal arts degree?
Personally, it would have been more rewarding. In the book the authors write:
We’ve met former business majors, now nearing middle age who say they regret not having studied philosophy while at college. We have yet to meet a philosophy major who felt he or she should have chosen business. (Pg. 108)
When the authors describe the two business lectures they attended I cringed at the memory of sitting through similar classes covering growth strategies, product life cycle, etc. I was bored or as Seth Godin in his book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us describes it - I was sleepwalking. I ultimately returned to college to take the accounting courses required for the CPA exam anyway. I do think I would have preferred and received a greater benefit from taking history courses than sitting through all those business management classes that seemed to cover the same material. 

If I could have a do-over would I major in liberal arts?
It is very unlikely. I needed a career path that would guarantee I could support myself. Knowing what I know now instead of a general business degree I would have pursued forensic accounting - a degree that probably didn't exist when I was in college.  Perhaps a double major of criminal justice and accounting would have sufficed. I would also try to incorporate more history, English and philosophy instead of just taking the required credits. Actually the current accounting major requires students do just that.

Should Everyone Graduate With a Liberal Arts Degree?
Should they? Maybe. Will they? No. I think most parents and many students feel the same way I did. They need to choose a major aligned with their interests and abilities that will also give them a decent standard of living and the ability to pay off their college loans. In many cases that will be some type of business degree.  I also think many parents push their children into a university degree when they would be off pursuing a trade or vocational degree from a technical college.   

I will continue to explore vocational degrees and college credit requirements in future posts.

What do you think? Should everyone graduate with a liberal arts degree? 

Femme Frugality

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Interview With the Authors of the book: The Mother of All Meltdowns

This month The Savvy Reader Book Club is reading Crystal Ponti's book The Mother of All Meltdowns: Real Stories of Moms' Finest (Worst, Completely Awful) Moments. Crystal, along with twenty-nine fellow (mom) bloggers, has written a book featuring tales from the trenches of motherhood. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing several of the book’s authors. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did:

What is a mommy meltdown?

Natasha Peter:
A mommy meltdown is one of those moments in motherhood where you just completely lose it. Nothing seems to go right, and you've somewhat lost your sense of hope that it ever will. It could be that moment where you hide in the bathroom or in a closet to get away from your child or the moment where you snap on any - and everything around you.

Rabia Lieber:
I think it’s that moment you just can’t take anymore and you explode; blow your top; break down and cry. The exact reaction looks different on different moms, but the basic principle is the same.

Who came up with the idea to write this book?
Rabia Lieber:
The idea was all Crystal Ponti’s! I’m just so honored that she asked me to be a part of it!

How did you find your tribe? Did you know each other before blogging? If not have you met in person?

Michelle Nahom:
I've actually written about this subject on my blog. See my post How To Grow Your Blog by Building a Tribe of Online Friends.

I started blogging a little over a year ago and was just slowly moving along until I discovered the SITS Girls. I had people reading my blog from my industry and my community, but I just couldn't seem to take it any further. Once I discovered SITS, things started to come together. I met a lot of new bloggers, and started commenting and low and behold, I started making connections…and friends! I've actually met several of my Meltdown co-authors in person. I was attending a conference on photo organizing in Chicago and convinced one of my first blogging buddies AnnMarie Gubenko to meet me there. I met Kristen Daukas and Alexa Bigwarfe at a SITS conference and we became fast friends. Tamara Bowman and another mutual blog friend, Ilene Evans, drove to my house this summer and we had a pool playdate with the kids and lunch! Crystal of course was one of my first blog friends, and I talk to her via email and Facebook quite frequently. I count many of the Meltdown moms among my closest blog friends!

AnnMarie Gubenko:
I think most of us found each other through our blogs. I knew some of the ladies because I follow their blogs or they follow mine. One of the best parts of being a part of this book is that I feel my tribe has grown. We are all a part of something so even if we can't make our rounds to every blog, we know we can count on each other for support. I think I have two bloggers in real life and hope to meet more in the future.

Rabia Lieber:
My tribe seems to have really solidified as a part of writing this book. There are other co-contributors as well as a few others whom I have been in contact with on a regular basis. I haven’t met any of them in real life, but that would be pretty cool if it happened!

Some of you shared really personal stories, was it difficult to write about those moments?

Michelle Nahom:
It was really difficult. Scary to a certain extent. When you meltdown, you're really showing yourself in the worst possible light. You could do everything right as a mom and in that one moment, you look like the biggest raving lunatic. In my story, I lost it with an ER doctor because he didn't want to call my son's pediatrician even though he was having very serious medical issues. Should I have just taken a deep breath and maybe called my doctor's service on my own, since the ER doctor didn't want to do it? In hindsight, maybe I should have. But I was in a panic, terrified over what was happening with my son, and I didn't even think to call his doctor on my own. I wonder how many other people heard me lose it in the ER that day, and what they thought. But what is done is done. I can't take it back. And the bottom line is, we all have a tolerance point at which the stress gets to be too much, and a meltdown is inevitable. It happens to everyone. It made me feel better to read the other stories because I realized I wasn't alone.

Helicopter Mom and Just Plain Dad:
Yes, for me it was difficult to discuss my daughter receiving her driver’s license and how very emotional that made me. I have tried to hide that fact from my daughter and even husband. Even though as a parent we prepare for our children's first times and are happy for them; inside it is difficult for parents, especially mom's, to know their "babies" are growing. I was so thrilled that my daughter gained her license but it was so much more than just her getting to drive alone. Independence is something we talk a lot about but it's much easier when their independence is still "under our control"; such as their walking...obviously they do that under our careful watch. 

Driving really hit home that she can get into a vehicle and head out on her own. And even though we are years away from her leaving the is a giant step for teens to have vehicles and learn a whole new responsibility. Without their parents in the car. 

Rabia Lieber:
I am usually an open book. I don’t find it hard to share about myself at all. I actually still have another meltdown story in my head, but it really involves my daughter in a way that she might find embarrassing, so I haven’t written it publically…yet. Plus, I haven’t had enough time away from that instance to write about it yet.

In the introduction of the book, motherhood is described as painted in soft colors with lullabies serving as background music. What was been your biggest surprise about becoming a mother?

Natasha Peter:
Once I found out I was pregnant, I turned into an extreme mama bear. I didn't understand how I could completely fall head over heels in love with this little baby growing inside of me. I am surprised by how much I've changed and grown since my son was born. I didn't see myself as nurturing before, but the motherly instinct definitely hit me like a ton of bricks.

Rabia Lieber:
I am surprised daily by how different each of my three children are! They come from the same parents and live in the same house!! They look so similar to each other, but act (and react) so differently!

Is there anything you wish you would have known about motherhood beforehand?

Natasha Peter:
I wish I had known how quickly time flies by! It just seemed like yesterday that he was born and now my son is almost 2 1/2 years old. Time truly flies! That's why it's my focus to enjoy every solitary minute with him. I want to enjoy my time with him before he's old enough to want his own space and not want to spend time with him!

AnnMarie Gubenko:
I wish I knew how much I was going to miss sleep or that you will never have a day off again. Even if you get a break, your kids will still invade your thoughts and worries. I think I knew how much joy they would bring me but I don't think I knew how much my heart would break when your kid is struggling, hurt or sick. I wish I would have known how fast time goes and that before you know it, you are done with one stage and onto the next and it usually happens the minute you think you have a handle on the stage they were previously in.

Rabia Lieber:
How important it would be to find and keep mom friends. This gig gets pretty isolating sometimes.

Do you have suggestions for other moms to help prevent melt downs?

Michelle Nahom:
Time outs work for me. I mean a time out for me! Sometimes I just need to walk away from the situation and take a deep breath and think about it away from the stressors. Usually if I can do this, I can pull myself together and think of alternative ways to deal with the situation. But I need the breather.

Natasha Peter:
Choose your battles, and you'll win the war! Don't try to prevent the inevitable - you will have a meltdown at some point in your time as a mom. You'll drive yourself nuts trying to prevent it. Just figure out how to make your way to the other side of the meltdown. 

Rabia Lieber:
I’ve learned to better recognize my triggers. I can usually predict when a situation might get close to meltdown potential and I start a verbal dialogue in my head to keep my cool. I often have to remind myself that children are not miniature adults. That is my mantra some days.

Is there anything else you would like my readers to know about your book or it's authors?

Natasha Peter:
If I had to choose another book to be a part of, I would love to be with this same group of women. They are dedicated, focused, funny, talented, and so much more. 

Rabia Lieber:
I just can’t get over what an awesome opportunity it has been to publish this book with these amazing ladies. And then to hear all the other stories that people share with us because they feel less alone in their struggles. I am humbled by it.

Where can we find you?
Michelle Nahom:
Blogging at A Dish of Daily Life
Facebook A Dish of Daily Life
Tweeting as DishofDailyLife
Pinning as Dish of Daily Life
Google+ as Michelle Nahom

Natasha Peter:
Right now, I have 2 blogs - Epic Mommy Adventures, which focuses on my stories as a single mom, and Grow With Epic Mommy, which focuses on blog hops, giveaways, product reviews, and so much more!

Hovering high and low, C. Lee "sealy" and Khris Reed as Plain to Plane on Helicopter Mom and Just Plane Dad:
Visit us:
Follow us on Twitter:
Like us on FaceBook:
Join us on LinkedIn:

Rabia Lieber:
On the couch…in that corner that is somehow shaped exactly like my rear end…oh! You mean online? The oh-so-creatively named:

AnnMarie Gubenko:
Tidbits from the Queen of Chaos
Twitter handle @queenofchaosmom
A huge thank-you to all of the interviewees.  Please check out their melt down stories in The Mother of All Meltdowns: Real Stories of Moms' Finest (Worst, Completely Awful) Moments.

Feel free to share your insights into motherhood and mommy meltdown moments in the comments.

Friday, November 01, 2013

The Savvy Reader Book Club Choices for November

The Savvy Reader Book Club is an online nonfiction book club created for the serious reader.  At the beginning of each month I select one or two books then host discussion posts covering the books throughout the month.  If you write a blog post about one of my selections I will be happy to include its link in my final post.

I actually cannot believe it is November 1st already and yes I do realize I am a bit behind on previous book club posts.  I am going to really try to catch-up this month.

Here are my book club selections for November:

Fellow blogger Crystal Ponti's book The Mother of All Meltdowns: Real Stories of Moms' Finest (Worst, Completely Awful) Moments. Crystal has written, along with twenty-nine fellow (mom) bloggers, a book that features tales from the trenches of motherhood. This anthology takes an honest look at the moments that bring even the strongest mama to her knees. Bonus content reveals the secrets to surviving the most harrowing meltdown with grace, composure, and maybe a little wine.

I've already begun reading this book and guarantee if you decide to read this one along with me you will not be disappointed:


For my second selection I am going with Seth Godin's book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us:

Have you read either of these books? If so what were your thoughts? Be sure to stop back  throughout the month to participate in my book discussions.

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Bossypants by Tina Fey

This month The Savvy Reader Book Club read Tina Fey’s book Bossypants. I chose this book after learning it was the best book Sheryl Sandberg read last year. I was a bit apprehensive about selecting it after reading several mixed reviews; some reviewers found it hilarious while others didn’t think it was funny at all.

My thoughts:

Bossypants is funny:
It’s not the funniest book I’d ever read. Bill Bryson’s book A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trailstill holds that distinction, but it was funny. This book’s humor is classic Tina Fey. If you ever watched Tina’s TV show 30 Rock you will recognize the humor. I realized Liz Lemon was Tina Fey or perhaps Tina Fey was Liz Lemon.

Tina can be a bit vulgar:
When I checked Bossypants out from the library, the librarian told me her book club didn’t like it. They thought it was too vulgar. I actually didn’t find the vulgarity to be too bad. In my opinion Caitlin Moran’s book How to Be a Woman was much worse. As you may recall her book was so crass I wasn't able to finish it. I do think if you’ve never watched 30 Rock you will find the chapter that includes dialogue of the show’s characters weird.

I’m not sure what this book is:
Bossypants is not a memoir. Tina Fey doesn’t analyze her life or provide us with insight in to who Tina Fey really is. Nor is it a career or how to book. My library classifies it as stage entertainment (whatever that means).

Tina is one of us:
I did learn the reason I like Tina Fey is because she started out like many of us. She grew up in a middle class family, had a regular childhood, felt like a misfit in college and struggles with many of the same issues we do. She is tenacious, an incredibly hard worker and has difficulty balancing work and family like most women.

I usually base the value of a nonfiction book, by how many notes I take while reading the book. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a single note from this book, but I did bookmark a couple of interesting passages. Here is a sampling:

Tina’s views on Photoshop:
Give it up. Retouching is here to stay. Technology doesn’t move backward. No society has ever de-industrialized. Which is why we’ll never turn back from Photoshop. At least with Photoshop you don’t really have to alter your body. It’s better to have a computer do it to your picture than to have a doctor do it to your face? (Pg. 161)

On luxury cruises:
Luxury cruises were designed to make something unbearable-a two-week transatlantic crossing – seem bearable. There’s no need to do it now. There are planes. You wouldn’t take a vacation where you ride a stagecoach for two months but there’s all-you-can-eat shrimp. (Pg. 100)

What she tells young women who ask for career advice:
People are going to try to trick you. To make you feel you are in competition with other women. “You’re up for a promotion. If they go with a woman, it’ll be between you and Barbara.” Don’t be fooled. You’re not in competition with other women. You’re in competition with everyone. (Pg. 88)

Her unsolicited advice to women in the workplace:
When faced with sexism or ageism or lookism or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: “Is this person in between me and what I want to do?” If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way. Then when you’re in charge, don’t hire the people who were jerky to you. (Pg. 144-145)

Final thoughts:
Unlike Sheryl Sandberg, I don’t think this is the best book I’ve read this year, but I did enjoy it. I would recommend reading it if you are a fan of Tina Fey, are looking for a light read, a beach read or a palate cleanser. If you are looking for a memoir that includes an in-depth analysis of who Tina Fey is or how she became one of the funniest women in comedy you will probably be disappointed in this book.

Have you read Tina Fey’s book Bossypants? If so what were your thoughts?

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Monday, October 21, 2013

The Adjunct Trap

This month The Savvy Reader Book Club is reading Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus's book Higher Education?: How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids---and What We Can Do About It. Today’s post is the first in a series of posts I will be writing this month inspired by this book.

The book begins by informing us that the American colleges and universities are bound by a caste system. At the top of the caste are 320,000 associate and full professors, most of whom have tenure or will soon receive that reward. Below them are about 170,000 assistant professors, of which most are on the “tenure track.” The third tier consists of instructors and lecturers who aren’t in line for promotion and who handle introductory sections at modest salaries and benefits. (A number are faculty spouses unable to find other employment). The fourth and fifth castes are made up of part-time adjuncts and graduate assistants. They are the contingent people of the campus - exploitable, disposable, and impoverished by low wages. They do the bulk of the undergraduate teaching at many universities. (Pg. 15)

What is an adjunct?
Adjuncts belong to a diverse group of teachers called contingents, who are hired to take on chores regular faculty members don’t want to do. They come from respected professions like lawyers and film producers who teach one evening course (largely because they enjoy it) or are among the gypsy scholars who commute among as many as four campuses in a single week. Pay rates are shamefully low. The American Federation of Teachers found the average is about $3,000 per course, which means many get less. And of course there are no benefits.

Here is an example of the huge inequality found in the adjunct/professor pay structure:
At Queens College, a branch of the City University of New York, the pay is better than average but the disparities are typical. When students walk into the gleaming building that is Powdermaker Hall, they might see one classroom where a full professor is explaining the economic ideas of the Nation’s founders. He’ll earn $116,000 for six classes taught over nine months-$17,000 per course. In the very next room is an adjunct teaching political theory to thirty bright-eyed freshmen. But she gets a flat fee of $4,600, admittedly higher than the national average, but so is the urban cost of living. Moreover, the professor has health insurance, sick days, sabbaticals, and a hefty TIAA-CREF pension. The adjunct’s benefits are akin to W.C. Field’s reward in The Bank Dick- “a hearty handshake.” (Pg. 48-49)
Adjuncts are not respected:
Many adjuncts are not respected by the salaried faculty members and administrators and are not perceived as part of the campus community.

Why is adjunct teaching a trap?
Many women think they can have families and stay in the game by adjuncting. They get trapped there. Age and time trap them. Vagabonding from job to job isn’t so terrible when you’re young, but it takes a toll on you as they get older. In another example sited, an adjunct teacher tried to cobble together a livelihood by teaching sixteen “distance” courses. Online teaching, she said, was tougher than face-to-face instruction, because if you do it seriously, “you never get a break from it. You almost sleep with your computer. (Pg. 54)

The sad fact is it is difficult to earn a living wage teaching as an adjunct even when you teach multiple classes.

What are the chances an adjuncts position will morph into full-time?
Many years of adjuncting wouldn’t count as valuable classroom experience. Rather, for most, it’s a black mark. This was borne out by an informal survey Angelo Gene Monaco, the vice president for human resources at the University of Akron, performed. Out of curiosity, he surveyed sixty heads of departments at a sample of Midwestern colleges. Only three told him they’d even consider hiring a contingent for a full-time post. Monaco created quite a stir at the 2008 meeting of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources when he declared: “We’ve helped create a highly educated part of the working poor.” (Pg. 53)

A real life example:
Which brings me to Kate; I’ve previously written about Kate’s disillusionment with her job after she was repeatedly passed over for promotion. Kate has since abandoned her dream of being a controller or CFO and refocused her energies on becoming a full-time teacher at a local college. She taught her first adjunct class last semester – an introductory business course.

Initially, Kate was extremely frustrated by the lack of support she received from the college. She had difficulty setting up her email, accessing the school’s intranet, and even getting a ‘teacher’s edition’ of the book. She earned $2,600 to teach the class which met once a week for four hours. She took a week of vacation from her day job to prepare and lost sleep fretting about whether to send emails to students who hadn't turned in their homework.

Next semester she is contracted to teach this class again along with a 12-week accounting class. Surprisingly, the 12-week class pays the same as the 6-week class; it too meets once a week, but for three and a half hours instead of four. I can’t imagine the accounting class taking any less time to prepare, so there goes another week of vacation.

Has Kate fallen for the adjunct trap?
Unfortunately, after reading this book I think she has.  I told her what I had learned from the book, but she refuses to listen. My experience has been when someone wants something badly they rarely listen to naysayers.

What do you think?  Is adjunct teaching a trap?
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Thursday, October 17, 2013

“Pull Her Down” Syndrome

Last month The Savvy Reader Book Club read Leymah Gbowee's book Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War. Earlier this week I shared Leymeh Gbowee's Lessons on Domestic Abuse. 

Today I want to share a surprising syndrome I was made aware of reading this book:  

After working tirelessly as the official spokeswoman and inspirational leader for Women in Peacebuilding Network, or WIPNET Leymeh Gbowee was asked to come to a meeting at the WIPNET offices. Most of the women who had been a part of the Liberian Mass Action for Peace were there. They formed a circle and one by one the women began attacking her.  She was undermining them, she was still trying to run things, she had stolen money. She had taken credit for everything WIPNET had done while “not doing shit,” and all she ever wanted was power.

Some time later, Gbowee met the American Feminist Gloria Steinem who talked to her about the “pull her down” syndrome:
A way in which too often women denigrate other women. This infighting happens in any society or group than has been impoverished or disenfranchised for a long time. You see one person doing well, think she is getting it all and want only to take it away. I understand it, but it is very destructive. (Page 199)
So there you have it – pull her down – syndrome. It is similar to how Americans love to build up their celebrities then tear them down. Think Martha Stewart and Paula Deen. This instance is much sadder though. Didn’t the women of Liberia have greater problems? What good was it going to do harboring grievances and jealousies against each other? 

Have you heard of “pull her down” syndrome? Do you have any examples you’d like to share?