Monday, July 25, 2011

Protecting Your Princess - Part 1, Sexual Abuse

Yikes, what a topic! Settle in, folks. This is a longer post, and a serious one. One of every three girls is going to be a victim of sexual abuse of some sort by the time she's an adult. Think of three adult women you know now. One of them has probably been abused. Not a happy thought, is it?

Parents, your job is to find the line between teaching your daughters about personal safety in this area and scaring them. And then try not to cross it. (Being scared is pretty much going to be your experience, for a while.)

The easiest way to teach is to give girls an idea of consequences - very subtly - but focus on actions they can take, whether they are 8, 18, or 39 and holding.

First, if you haven't already, it's time to teach your princess how to set her own boundaries. Start by reminding her of house rules like where she can play after school or what time she is supposed to come inside. Teach her to be reasonably suspicious - not all strangers are dangerous! Finally, help her understand when it's okay to yell "NO!" and when it's okay to hit - and where and how!

Second, coach, don't rescue. Being supportive, providing guidance, but allowing her to make small mistakes lead to her learning to make better decisions and avoid big mistakes. Help her define harassment. Help her figure out where her own boundaries are. This is extremely important for the very early teen girls. They need to know what they want to accomplish in high school (and maybe beyond), what they don't want to do, what makes a good friend, and how to handle bad ones. They also need to decide - beforehand - what she's comfortable doing (not just sexually) and how well she needs to know someone before doing anything with them. Role play with your young teen to give her practice with difficult conversations.

Now take note - less than 20% of girls learn about sex from mom or dad. Why is that? Well, 90% of parents say schools should teach it. So apparently, they're quite uncomfortable and would rather pass the buck. Okay, but schools teach it far too late. Kids need to know the basics early, in an age-appropriate way, and how many parents are gonna sign off on it for 2nd graders? When your girls get to the 5th or 6th grade school presentation on menstruation, it shouldn't be new material for them! Data suggests, and the girls I talk to confirm it, that they'd much rather learn about sex from their parents. It's more understandable, not sugar-coated, and less embarassing. Parents, there are two benefits for you here: one, you have another chance to teach values, and two, it sets the stage for open and honest communication later in the teen years.

Take another note - 9 out of 10 boys and 8 out of 10 girls over the age of 12 have seen pornography. Most of them run across it while doing their homework online. That's a little alarming, but what should worry you is that about a third of these kids - boys and girls - go and do what they've seen within two or three days. Even if your daughter hasn't seen porn, it's a good bet her friends have, and are cluing her in. (This is the #1 reason TVs and computers don't belong behind closed doors in your kids' bedrooms: you can't control what they see, you don't even know what they're exposed to, and you don't know what they take away from it.)

Parents love to be in denial about all this, because, let's face it, this is ugly stuff. They resist, they argue with me. It's not just me; parents all over the country say the same stuff to every person who presents this information. Here are the most predictable responses:

"Oh, sexual abuse is a problem, but mostly for teens and my kids aren't that old yet." No, not mostly for teens. The average age of victims is 11.

"But we don't know any gay people." I have no idea what that's supposed to do with it, because nearly 100% of sexual abuse is committed by heterosexuals.

"That's good for some people to know, but that kind of person isn't living in my neighborhood." Sorry to enlighten you, Cupcake, but he is. The U.S. Department of Justice says there's an average of one child molester per square mile in this country. Except that they aren't spread out that way. If you live in a city, the density is much higher. I checked with my local reporting agency and in my city, in the midst of nice new homes and happy families, there are four within a half-mile radius. Oh yeah, they're out there.

"But see, that just proves the police know who they are." No, because the average child molester victimizes between 30 and 60 kids before he's ever arrested. It doesn't matter whether the police know them or not, anyway - 75% of adolescents are sexually assaulted by someone they - and you - know pretty well.

And just so you know, a quarter of all rapes are of girls between the ages of one (OMG!) and 11, and another third are of girls between 11 and 17.

This is why it's so important to protect your girls. The danger is very real and they are at risk unless you are very thorough. Use common sense and make sure they do, too.

Start in her room. Specifically, in her closet. The fashion trends for the past five years or so have been pretty form-fitting. Teens understandably might want to show themselves off. But does your pre-teen need to wear spandex? Guess what - if you buy it, she wears it, and she might as well be flashing a neon sign saying "BAIT."

Take it to the table. Talk about signs of potential abusers so she'll recognize behavioral red flags. Teach her how to say NO very clearly and how to mean it. (After all, if she says no, she's not interested, but then talks to the boy later, she's actually telling him to disregard when she says 'no' because she really means 'yes' - and that is NOT a good thing!) So make them practice saying no, using all kinds of creative arguments. And make sure "no" and "stop" really mean "no" and "stop" in your home, so your daughter is comfortable with those words and knows what to reasonably expect when she uses them. And talk with her about setting situation-specific boundaries, like "I'll go to the party for an hour, but then I'm going home."

Part 2 is coming - Recognizing an Abuser. Stay tuned!

Monday, July 18, 2011

W2W Brunch & Beyond

It's coming! The Woman-to-Woman Brunch & Beyond is in Phoenix next month!

This is one of those events that isn't just an expo - it can change lives. I'm happy to see it in my area, but even more excited, because ... (wait for it) ...

I've been asked to speak!

The only downside is, I'm not a shameless self-promoter. I find spam emails as offensive as spam Tweets, but I find myself in a position where I need to do these things. First, because I am legitimately excited about this event and I'd love to see as many of you there as possible. Second, because the more of you show up, the more of you may walk away with the information and empowerment to make lasting changes in your lives, which is important to both of us. And third, because speakers do occasionally need to shamelessly self-promote.

So I apologize in advance for daily Tweets about this - if you're a follower, I promise to tweet something worthwhile for every time I tweet a plug for the event.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Time Management, or Sustainable Motivation?

I'd like to say, "Great minds think alike," but in reality, I couldn't fully explain my recent intuition and resulting success until I read a blog post from David Allen (the Getting Things Done guy). Then ... EPIPHANY!

I realized a long time back that all the day planners and to-do lists in the world weren't helping me get things done every day. In fact, some days, looking at tasks to check off was seriously de-motivational. (Which reminds me, if you haven't yet seen it, you've got to check out Huge LOLs!)

If anything, it seemed like I did less, even on my best days. I'm not talking just at work, but through the course of a day - work, home, family - the whole enchilada grande with rice and beans.

David Allen pointed out that time management wasn't the problem. And I believe he was (and is) correct. If you can't get things done that you'd like to in a day, the time management theory says it's because you are wasting time and not working efficiently. That may be true, but let's be honest - sometimes I don't do things because, well, I just don't feel like it!

You too, right?

I was crafting a short presentation for tweens based on Proverbs 31 - the part about the virtuous wife. My point for the kids was that everybody has responsibilities, but all those jobs are done for different reasons. The woman in the example is valued above rubies, but not because she works her butt off. She has a balance in all areas. She takes care of her family, she takes care of herself, she has a job, and she's able to provide a little for those in need.

It was then that I altered my own day-planner pages. I've been producing my own for years anyway, so it was no great challenge. I went back and carefully read P31, noting every actual task the woman did. Then I looked at my list. What motivated her to do those things every day? Every task fell into one of four categories: she did things for the home, for the heart, from the home, and from the heart.

That's pretty much how I set up my planner. I have a narrow schedule column for appointments, but the other wider column is divided into sections (top to bottom) in order of importance.

First up is the "For the Heart" category. That's my personal category for exercise, sunscreen, supplements, prayer, and so on. Yes, I will forget if I don't remind myself to do it. And yes, in this context, I am the most important thing in my day - if I don't take care of myself, I won't be able to take care of anything else as well.

Next comes my family - the "For the Home" section. Domestic tasks, which I prefer to have done before I start anything else. I don't know about you, but I don't like sitting down to blog or read a journal article or (heaven forbid) actually bring a client into my home when there's a pile of dishes in the sink. (Before anyone starts on gender roles or anything, let me just remind you that if you want something done right, do it yourself. Anyway, I'm at home to do them, so why not?)

When that stuff is done, I start my own work - "From the Home", if you will. Specifically, any tasks related to Unchained, whether it's clients or just clearing my desk off.

Last, "From the Heart", which includes anything from mailing a birthday card to sewing baby quilts for the hospital.

When I read David Allen's blog, I realized why it worked. Just organizing things in terms of priorities created its own motivation. That's not exactly what he said, but if you gotta have a list, doesn't it makes sense that it should actually help you do what you want to do? Sustainability, baby!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fall, Already?

Well, I blinked and missed it but Pantone's fall 2011 colors are out. You can see them at

I gotta say, I'm mostly digging the palette. I know, it's not even the Fourth of July yet. But for those of you already planning wardrobe purchases for fall, whether it's just a new shirt or an entire closet, let me pass on what image experts are recommending:

- Use the neutrals as your foundation pieces. They all tend to have a cool undertone, so if you've got warmer tones in your skin and hair, you'll need to brighten them up with accent pieces or accessories in the brighter shades. "The" neutral for fall is Cadet (for men), which is the blue gray of a dark cloudy sky. Coffee Liqueúr, a soft dark taupe, is a new take on traditional brown and can be warmed up with Emberglow (basically the coral red-pink we've seen since early spring) or cooled with Deep Teal. Women may appreciate Orchid Hush, a barely lavender silver, for an elegant background for the brighter purple Phlox or warm pink Honeysuckle. Nougat is the lighter version of Coffee, suitable for men or women, but bland without something to liven it up. Somewhat surprisingly, there is absolutely no black or even charcoal.

- Ladies, Bamboo is a golden yellow that's a bit brighter than mustard, thanks to a subtle green undertone. Expect to see this as a solid. Not a good color for you? Cedar, a mid-tone neutral green in the sage family, is an excellent alternative. Gents, the colors you'll probably be seeing a lot of are Burnt Sienna, rather a soft orangey-brown, and Raspberry Wine, a more violet red and masculine alternative to the ladies' softer Honeysuckle pink. But unless you're a gambler, don't spend the bulk of your budget on the these shades; they may not be in favor much past the holiday season.

- Fall shades that you can safely wear next year? Cadet, Orchid Hush, Coffee Liqueúr, Nougat, Phlox, Honeysuckle or Raspberry Wine. But don't ditch good wardrobe staples in this year's spring/summer colors - most of them will be back next summer, and some are projected to be popular well into 2013! Think Regatta, Curacao, and Russet, as well as Lavender and Silver Cloud.

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Cluttered Desk Is The Sign Of ... Stress

When I worked in the corporate world, my desk and workspace was nearly always clean and tidy. Which is weird only because my house tended to be cluttered and chaotic. As much as my last major employment was stressful, keeping an organized desk allowed me to feel much more in control and on top of things.

That's how it is for lots of people, I've found.

So if work tends to cause you stress, here are a few simple ways to manage that, simply by taking control.

First, organize your space, whether it's your office, your cubicle, your tool box, or the computer table at home! File what needs filing, organize projects, and clear some space. Then, actually clean it. Starting with a clean surface just feels more efficient. At the end of the day, clear your desk again. If you're in the middle of something, use a sticky note to mark your place and put it away. If you have the option, use colored (not black or gray) letter trays and coordinating accessories, even if you have to buy them yourself. (You can take them with you when you leave the company, don't worry.) Employers who don't allow "personalization" like photos or plants may still allow a blue stapler or green pencil cup. Every little bit allows you to maintain your sense of self.

Next, organize your time and work. Keep track of your projects or work assignments if that's practical, or at least calendar your time at work, marking out lunches or meetings. If your job is more physical, you can still plan out your to-do list for each day. This is especially helpful if you have projects you need to work on over a few days - plan your progress each day. Keep track of when you get distracted or tend to waste time. How does this impact your performance? And, don't forget breaks - don't just go to the coffee pot ... stretch, do a couple neck rolls, a few deep breaths, and then a few minutes of some mindless game on your smartphone.

Once your stuff, your progress, and your breaks are organized, your stress comes down a level.

Granted, these are not especially secrets. But unless you're actually taking action along these lines, you aren't taking control of your stress. Don't let it get the best of you!