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?


Vol. III: Things that are making me happy this week

Despite how the week ended:


Oh, beautiful snow, right? Unlike our friends who are prancing in 23″ of fluffy precipitation in the northeast (which might actually make prancing incredibly difficult, if not impossible), this is mostly ice. The less fun version of winter weather.

Continue reading →

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?


What if you did win the Powerball?

Since I’m still writing in this blog, consider this my admission that I was not a major winner in Saturday’s record-breaking Powerball jackpot.

But, I can say that I am walking away with more money than I invested. Thank you lucky number 13.

What will I do with that $12? Don’t worry – I won’t spend it all in one place. While it could purchase a six-pack of beer, it will likely end up in the “kitty” where stray dollar bills end up. (Previously, this was our swear jar when Aaron and I were trying to kick the habit of one particular word in our vocabulary. I can’t speak for Aaron, but I can say that having to put money where my mouth was did help curb the frequency of usage of that particular word. Have I been as faithful to following protocol as of late? Not really. Add it to the resolution list.)

Let’s play a visioning game for one moment. Now, the Powerball for Wednesday night is $1.4 billion. Granted, if you opt for the 30-year payout (which would carry me to retirement), that overall winnings are reduced to $868 million. Plus taxes. But, at least in this country we have all those loopholes for wealthy people, right?

This Wired article walks through the various deduction scenarios, projecting a final payout of $394 million. That leads me to ask you:

Dirty Harry aside, can you actually imagine having $394 million dollars? What would you do with such a sum of funds now overflowing sock drawers, bank accounts of the Cayman Islands, etc.?

I can barely imagine having one million dollars. Of course I’m a nonprofit professional because I don’t want to make money.

[cut to: tumbleweeds rolling through the desert]

Fact check: not true. 

Back to winning the Powerball though because it’s fun to fantasize about the Amazon shopping spree that would await me. [Glass Pyrex containers for DAYS!] Think of all the books I could buy! And then I would need more bookcases and shelves to put them on! And then more lamps to read by!

In truth, if and when I can make more money or win the Powerball, I want to give it away. No, not all of it. Please. I can be a selfish human, and I have a family and want to see the world. Still, I recognize the constant need in our society for additional resources – from  providing funding for pre-K and after-school programs who success rates are rooted in evidence-based practices to increasing access to health care resources for vulnerable populations/rural communities to investing in clean energy technologies that allow us to reduce our dependence on dangerous fossil fuels.

And more. Helping to support animal shelters. Investing in racial equity training to dismantle our white supremacist systems. Supporting scholarship programs to vocational and university programs. Increasing access to the Internet. Putting music programs back in public schools. Oh, this list could go on and on and on…

Sure, I would mind overthrowing a corporation or two, or trying to compete with these guys in the 2016 Election:


But that’s really just peas and carrots when you step back and look at our political landscape…which is scary.

So, in the meantime, I’ll put my money where my mouth heart is – investing in creating a more equitable, sustainable future for all people, not just the privileged, not just the ones who can and have access to the right resources. Money can’t fix problems, but it sure can help support the people on the ground, in communities, committed to helping build a better quality of life for all.

And take that trip to Ireland. Because, you know: #yolo.



Vol I: 5 things that made me happy this week

As an homage to my “friends” at Pop Culture Happy Hour (oh, how I wish we were friends in real life!), I’m going to try and do a series of blog posts reflecting on aspects of my previous week that made me happy.

My friend Liza mentioned that one of her goals for 2016 was to “celebrate accomplishments in a more meaningful way.” What a brilliant idea! Most of us focus solely on our failures and mistakes and brush off accomplishments nonchalantly.

While “what is making me happy” may not fall under the definition of accomplishments, I hope it will serve as a positive reminder for me – and maybe you – that so much in our lives can and does bring us joy. Sometimes, we just forget about it.

  1. Old School Hip Hop jams

This actually started the night of New Year’s Day. In previous posts, I had noted that Aaron and I used to have some epic dance parties. Unfortunately, those had fallen by the wayside over the last couple of years. Then, 2016 happened. And, after some wine and a game of Scrabble, we threw down thanks to the power of YouTube bringing us some classic videos like these:


The beats of ole kept on rolling this week thanks to a Spotify playlist (and the fact that my co-worker was 100% on board) on our trip back from the coast.

2. The return to public transit


Driving was once one of my favorite activities. In the last few years, it has become a dreaded routine, and, some days feeling like survival of the fittest. With free WiFi and relative peace of mind, I was able to hop on one of GoTriangle’s regional transit buses both Thursday and Friday this week, giving me an extra hour where I could choose what to do: work, read, not have to worry that the driver next to me glued to their iPhone won’t nudge me into the guardrail.

3. Curling, eh?


Yes, the Triangle has its own curling club (appropriately named the Triangle Curling Club). On Friday night, the group held an open house, offering some hands-on introduction to the sport of curling.

Note: it is MUCH harder than it looks. The power comes from that back leg pushing off a starting block. But, then you have to transfer all of your weight into your other leg, kept in a perfect 90 degree angle. Oh, and then you have to get this 44lb stone closest to the “shot rock” at the other end.

From the initial taste, we are hooked. We will be back, especially since it is just a hop, skip, and jump away from our home.

4.Reminder that some politicians are human

Not that I have doubted President Obama’s sense of compassion, but his speech this past week on taking executive action on curbing gun violence in our nation moved me immensely.

All of us should be able to work together to find a balance that declares the rest of our rights are also important — Second Amendment rights are important, but there are other rights that we care about as well. And we have to be able to balance them. Because our right to worship freely and safely –- that right was denied to Christians in Charleston, South Carolina.  And that was denied Jews in Kansas City. And that was denied Muslims in Chapel Hill, and Sikhs in Oak Creek.  They had rights, too.

Our right to peaceful assembly -– that right was robbed from moviegoers in Aurora and Lafayette. Our unalienable right to life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness -– those rights were stripped from college students in Blacksburg and Santa Barbara, and from high schoolers at Columbine, and from first-graders in Newtown. First-graders. And from every family who never imagined that their loved one would be taken from our lives by a bullet from a gun.

And, the response to critics of President Obama’s emotional response during his speech from the Daily Show’s Trevor Noah was spot on:

5. To Read: Little Bee


I finished Chris Cleave’s 2008 novel to start off the new year, and it was achingly beautiful and painful. It tells the story of two people, brought together by tragic circumstances, and how they unpack the history that led to their connection, and also how they move forward together…or not. Could I be more generic in the description? Probably. I don’t want to give anything away about Little Bee and her struggles and triumphs in this incredibly well-written story.

So, what’s making you happy this week?