Love ’em or hate ’em, we can all agree: there are too many of them. The higher you “climb” within your organization, the more meetings you have. Which simply means you have less time to actually make a meaningful contribution to the greater good. Your focus is to take copious notes and then promptly stress out as additional responsibilities are doled out, new task forces are formed, and everyone replies: “I’m busy. How about meeting at 9:30am on Saturday, March 15, 2018?”


How to talk in meetings: we have sector-specific acronyms that we like to throw around like hot potatoes. The environmental community is notorious for speaking into three to four letter codes where, as a newcomer, you are left with notes that look something like this:

Talked with BOEM re OCS EIP

Coalition meeting around CPP to include CEIP, NCDEQ, SELC, EDF…


[Last one might be a slight exaggeration]

As Aaron has been preparing for an upcoming conference presentation, he has been collecting popular words and phrases that often make appearances in meetings as well. Less acronyms, more trite, overused colloquialisms that are in full dialect default mode.

Here are some that we’ve cobbled together (and, I admit that I used several of these during actual conversations while working from home last Friday):

  • Unpack
  • Moving pieces
  • Environmental scan
  • Putting another leg under the table
  • Piggyback
  • Ground-truthing
  • 30,000 foot view
  • Well, the literature says…
  • Crosswalk
  • Synergy
  • Bandwidth
  • Agency
  • Circle back
  • Low-hanging fruit
  • Touch points
  • Take it offline
  • Ducks in a row
  • Move the needle
  • Drill down
  • Hard stop
  • Punt
  • It is what it is
  • Break down the silos
  • At the end of the day
  • On the bleeding edge
  • Peel back the layers of the onion
  • Slippery slope
  • Robust
  • Sea change
  • Let’s take a deep dive
  • Wheelhouse


How many of these have you used? What is missing from this list?


How can I be a part of the struggle for racial justice?

For those who lived in the United States, have the headlines over the last year made you feel like our world had turned into a movie? Let’s take it back to 1998 for a minute…


Photo via IMDB

In all seriousness, it has been mind-blowing to me. The fear-mongering tactics undertaken by leaders, to pit people against people, is unraveling vital threads that many within our nation have put their lives on the line for – and even sacrificed them – to build. Our country has never been “the land of the free” for all. The policies passed and actions taken have been designed to ensure whites stay in power and people of color remain on the margins. [Note: I had the opportunity to participate in one of the Dismantling Racism workshops. If you have never been through a focused training on racial justice, I highly, highly recommend it.]

It sickens me to even write those words, but to try and paint a rosy picture of an inclusive or compassionate past would be outlandish, if not dangerous. As a white person, it is my responsibility to learn, understand, and recognize the oppressive nature of our systems – and then take action. Whether it is public education, incarceration, the media – all of these outlets help to feed into the narrative that white is good and black/brown is bad.

Again, it’s ludicrous – so we (white people) need to be standing in active solidarity with our fellow humans, acknowledging that #BlackLivesMatter, abandoning silly notions that “race-neutral” policies will somehow “fix” diversity. We must seek to listen first. We need to be aware of our privilege that our skin color allows us to be treated differently in this world and opens doors that remain sealed for too many – pigment is powerful in the United States.

White liberals and progressives have a responsibility to organize their communities for social justice using an explicitly anti-black racism frame. There is no need to hide behind black or people of color organizations. Commit yourself to organizing poor and working class white folks. We are capable of organizing our communities. Our children need everyday white folks to work harder to ensure that black women don’t have to worry about dying after failing to signal properly, walking while transgender or trying to protect their children.” – Charlene Carruthers, national director of Black Youth Project 100

Black people don’t need to be convinced that anti-black racism, structural inequity and skin privilege are facts; white people do… White people have to do the hard work of figuring out the best ways to educate themselves and each other about racism. And I don’t know what that looks like, because that is not my work, or the work of other black people, to figure out. In fact, the demand placed on black people to essentially teach white folk how not to be racist or complicit in structural racism is itself an exercise of willful ignorance and laziness. – Darnell L. Moore, senior editor at Mic and co-managing editor of The Feminist Wire

Recently, Stephen Colbert invited DeRay Mckesson to “The Late Show” stage. Mckesson is a Teach For America alum and is on the frontlines of activism for the #BlackLivesMatter movement. McKesson’s visit to the program made waves as Colbert brought up his own privilege during their conversation, which turned into the two literally swapping seats for a dialogue that we don’t often see on mainstream television programming.

I’m embarrassed and at times filled with shame at how late I am to being willing to recognize my privilege. I’ve admitted this in front of various rooms before. In reflection, I believe that was rooted in guilt: guilt for being White, guilt for having an upbringing where I could take part in pretty much whatever I wanted, guilt for the understanding that not attending college was never even a question or thought. I could do wherever I pleased without question. It took me nearly 30 years to begin unpacking these realizations – and it’s not over yet.

So, when I hear phases like, “we need our country back,” it sends me into a tizzy. BACK FROM WHAT? Really? I will not claim to know the circumstance of all white people, but I have to scratch my head when I hear political candidates use this phrase during speeches. Similarly, the “we’ll make this country great again” is a head turner. To make our country really great would be to NOT go back into our past that was constructed on violent extremism – denying civil liberties and access to resources. There are fragments of greatness, in principle, but these pieces have not been available to everyone.

Each day, we have an opportunity to recreate the narrative and to dismantle the structures rooted in white privilege. So I am going to do my part, whether it is writing blog posts that may make you and even me feel uncomfortable; seeking out media from sources like The Root, and getting involved in groups like Standing Up For Racial Justice.

I won’t ever claim to be an expert. I won’t ever claim to be perfect. But this is me – trying – to work towards a just, loving world where no pyramid power structure exists. I believe this can exist – but it’s going to take all of us to be a part of the movement.

You may not get the validation you hunger for. Stepping outside of the smoke and mirrors of racial privilege is hard, but so is living within the electrified fences of racial oppression – and no one gets cookies for that. The thing is that when you help put out a fire the people whose home was in flames may be too upset to thank and praise you – especially when you look a lot like the folks who set the fire. That’s OK. This is about something so much bigger than that.

There are things in life we don’t get to do right. But we do get to do them. 

– Ricardo Levins Morales

I’d love to hear about resources, outlets, etc. that have informed or enlightened you on this topic. What are you doing to for justice? What would you like to be doing that you are not already?

Vol II: Things that made me happy this week

I’m sticking with my series dedicated to little gems of what made me happy during the week. I found myself trying to stick mental post-it notes throughout the last few days in an effort to list them in this entry. We’ll see how I did…

Parks & Rec – Season 7 – now available on Netflix
Doesn’t anything else need to be said? Frankly, no. What a freakin’ great show.

Homemade BBQ Sauce


Look at that massive pile of sauce (there is tofu underneath there, I promise). Inspired to spend multiple hours in the kitchen last Sunday, I decided to make homemade BBQ sauce for the first time. Following the recipe below from Veganomicon, I whipped up this spicy, sweet, sultry mass of goodness. I was scraping down the pan so I could get all of it!


Backyard BBQ Sauce
Makes about 4 cups
Time: 40 minutes


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 medium-size yellow onion, chopped as finely as you can
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28-once) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup molasses (I substituted maple syrup)
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (I used agave nectar)
  • 1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard (Dijon works too)
  • 2 teaspoons liquid smoke

Preheat a saucepan over medium heat. lace the onions in the pan and saute in oil until browned (about 7 minutes). Add the garlic and saute for another minute. Add all the other ingredients except the mustard and liquid smoke, and cook for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat if the sauce begins to splatter everywhere. Add the mustard and liquid smoke, and taste for sweetness/sourness. Adjust the flavors if you think it’s necessary, and cook for 5 more minutes. If you like a smooth BBQ sauce, then puree it, but that’s not entirely necessary.

First race of the season


Sponsored by the Trailheads, the Little River Trail Run on January 16 turned out to be one the most beautiful mornings imaginable. While I still have yet to purchase actual trail shoes, I have fallen in love with trail running over the last year. Thanks to friends who open up my eyes to new places in our region, I have found such joy in romping through the woods, having to flex mental strength to pay attention and not wipe out over a root/rock/you name it.

We took on the challenging 10 mile course (although, per all of our GPS devices, it was closer to 9.5 miles total). The two days of raining prior to race day made the section near the river a scene from a Tough Mudder – people sliding, slipping, and splattering as we scrambled up and down the hilly trail.

I ended up finishing 10th in my age division with a time of 1:41:46 (10:11/mile), which is beyond expectations. I had ZERO goals in terms of timing. My only self-directive was to NOT GET HURT. I did fall – once – in the most graceful fashion I could manage, popping back up immediately and continuing forward. One of the best surprises of the race was running into (no pun intended) another friend who I ended up pacing with the last four miles for the course. That’s why I love running so much – building connections with others in this shared desire of achievement, of fulfillment, of success.

Double-date nights

Despite a disappointment experience at the newish Vegan Flava Cafe (you can read my Yelp review here), it was such a blast to go out with our friends Jon and Michelle. Who goes on double dates anymore?! We had the pleasure of taking on the 2 x 2 challenge before the holidays with another set of awesome friends Chelsea & Nic, more by accident than by intent.

The double-date needs to be a come back in 2016. While I love large gatherings, I find such fulfillment from these more intimate encounters. Despite the dining adventure not working out well, we all gave thumbs up to Bottle 501, another bottle shop/bar. Good vibe AND good prices – not always an easily-found combo.


Love it or hate it, Twitter has changed the game when it comes to national events including the State of the Union. I was glued more to my phone than to the actual television. The commentary, especially that made via the gif, was too good to not watch. The actual State of the Union speech was pretty good too. You can read the full transcript here. Here are a few of the highlights for me:

A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country, different regions, different attitudes, different interests. That’s one of our strengths, too. Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, fiercely, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.

But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t — it doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, it doesn’t work if we think that our political opponents are unpatriotic or trying to weaken America.

Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise or when even basic facts are contested or when we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get all the attention. And most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some special interest

and, of course, #ActOnClimate talk:

Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. You will be pretty lonely because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.

Things you are “supposed” to love: music edition

During my travels last week, I tuned into the All Songs Considered podcast celebrating the show’s 16 year “birthday.” The hosts selected one song from each of the 16 years that best encapsulated the year that was in music.

I try to be “cool’ and “hip” (does using those words completely negate me from achieving that status?). But, there are certain musicians that I try and try and try to like because I believe that I should. Either because I drool over other artists who are “similar” or because I have this notion that society does, and if I don’t, there may be something wrong to be. Social pressure is real. No one wants to feel like the odd person out during a conversation on pop culture.

So, I’ve compiled a few musical artists that, based on previous listening history, I should technically love. But, I don’t. It’s not you, musicians, it’s me. Here are a few:


Her quirky voice, poignant lyrics, and fusion of sounds align with my musical tastes. I’ve tried hard to swallow down her songs, and they all end up getting stuck. I feel like I’m wearing a wool sweater, and the itching begins. And all I want to do is rip that sweater off.


A band that always creeps onto top lists of decades. Granted, I haven’t listened to their latest release (the aptly titled Star Wars). But I have a distinct memory of driving back from a work trip, and the only cd that my boss had that who I knew the artist was Wilco. Filled with hope of falling in love with their winding path of musical sounds, I ended up being castigated and told I was no longer allowed to pick the music. And we cut off the CD halfway through.

Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams covered all of Taylor Swift’s 1989 album – which is the closest I’ve come to really saying “Yes, I’m a Ryan Adams fan!” And, the song “New York New York.” That’s about it. My lack of lust for Mr. Adams is harder to quantify. It’s one of those: “He just doesn’t move me” answers.

Let’s do one more…


I realize there might be friends who will be appalled with me. I can say that I have tried to be a Radiohead fan. Throughout college, I collected their music (often through LAN parties – now there’s a fun factoid of my past!) and would turn it on (streaming through Windows Player – word). I didn’t feel the click that I desperately wanted to. Radiohead is a band that I will attempt to re-connect with at this point in my life. We’ll see what happens…

Are there musical artists that you feel you should be a bigger fan of based on either your listening habits or social pressures?