Saturday, June 21, 2014

"Girls are harder to raise than boys"

I, once again, found myself in a conversation about how girls are harder to "deal with" in their adolescence than boys. As the mother of girls and being a girl myself I take offense every time I hear this. I try to stay calm and make my argument about how we are different and sometimes what's hard is just not understanding girls or just the impression that people have about what's "hard" societally. Some of what's "hard" is that we do not, as a society, respect women and that begins with when they start changing hormonally in their adolescence.

My father-in-law, who raised 4 boys, said this to me many years ago and I was VERY offended. He explained that it was because you had to worry more about girls than boys. Boys have more freedom and girls have to be worried about and protected. I had a friend growing up that suffered this in her house when the rules were very clearly different for her than for her brother. Her brother could walk to the store, but she could not, among other things. My daughter has a friend now that has very similar "protections" in place that do not exist for her brothers. I was grateful to my own mother, who raised both girls and a boy, when she explained that she found both to be difficult. She didn't have safety issues, she worried about each of us equally (or at least according to personality not gender), she found that we were each difficult for different reasons. We girls were hard because we did emote more, and this CAN be challenging, but on the flip side she said, "I always knew where you were with things; sad, happy, angry... I knew." For my brother what was challenging was not knowing how he was doing. "I never knew if he was okay. He wouldn't talk about anything."

Here's the thing... if boys are so much easier than girls, why are so many boys arming themselves and killing people?  Girls have drama. Girls emote. Girls might fight with one another emotionally and there is no doubt that is painful, even scarring, but, for the most part, girls aren't shooting people in anger or frustration. You might not appreciate girl "drama" or how we share our feelings when we are feeling them, or that we feel things so deeply that we have to talk about it for hours on end, but we are dealing with it, we try to deal with it. Boys seem to be bottling it up inside too often and this is leading to more "explosions."

Boys aren't easier, as far as I can tell, we just aren't worrying about them enough. Silence is not a sign of "I'm okay." Just as society unfairly classifies women as "too emotional" or writes off their feelings because "it's that time of the month," it also unfairly burdens boys with not being able to show their feelings. Anger seems to be an emotion we allow boys to express and humor, but sadness and pain, these are emotions they are not allowed to express or even feel because they have to "man up" and deal with it.

Now, I will apologize to those who have boys, because I don't have boys. So just as I don't appreciate when parents that do not have girls try to tell me that girls are harder, I suppose you might not appreciate me saying that, indeed, boys are harder than we think. I am not, however, saying they are harder, I am merely pointing out that both genders have their issues and they are difficult for different reasons. I am trying to say to the parents with boys, do not assume your boy is okay because he's not giving you a "hard time."  

Friday, June 6, 2014

"It sucks to be a girl..." It doesn't...

My daughter came home from school the other day. She'd had health class that morning and she said, "It sucks to be a girl. It's not fair." I said, "Why? Why would you say that?" "Because boys just keep getting bigger and stronger and we don't, we get weaker. We have cramps and bleeding and... it sucks." I tried to console her with words of the awesomeness that is to be a girl and then a woman. I'm not sure she wanted to hear it just then, but I do hope she was listening.

It is a gift to be a woman because we get to grow life in our bodies. Even if you never choose to exercise that gift, or if you are/were not able, the gift is there for all of us as a group and makes us  extraordinary.
It is a gift to be a woman because our bodies are softer and gentler and therefore produce less destruction. The "gentler sex" is not a criticism but a complement.
It is a gift to be a woman because our blood flow remains almost fully to our brains and can therefore maintain thoughts and decision making.
It is a gift to be a woman because we can be feminine and wear dresses without having to fight for our right to do so.

It's harder to be a girl because Society makes it harder. All of the responsibility of being mature is placed on the woman. She can't be herself because she might be too promiscuous and therefore "bring on" unwanted sexual advances to herself. She can't be herself because she enjoys going to a particular bar for particular music and dancing, but it's not safe for women to go there. She can't be herself because she's bossy and wants what she wants but society says she has to want for others and to be self sacrificing. She can't be herself because she's told that other people's needs are more important than her own. She can't be herself because she feels powerless, because strength is used in a threatening way to subdue her, to scare her, to make her feel "less than."

I don't want my girls to grow up feeling like it "sucks to be a girl." I want them to grow up knowing and seeing the beauty in our sex and to not be afraid to ask for what they want. I want them to grow up feeling good about the choices they make for themselves because they are women, not because society told them to act or behave a certain way. In fact, I want that for all people. I want all people to feel comfortable in who they are... the feminine boy, the man that wants to wear dresses, the girl that loves all the things they were told only boys like, boys loving boys and girls loving girls... I want them ALL to feel OK.

Society is not going to hell because the changes make YOU uncomfortable. Society is going to hell every time hatred is spewed because you feel uncomfortable.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Internet Safety and Privacy

Nothing is Free. I hear it all the time, "why buy it, you can get it for Free on the Internet?" The first thing that kids don't understand is that the Internet is not free. Someone is paying for that Internet Access, and the only place you can get it for "free" is at the Public Library... but guess what, the tax payers are paying for that, so it's still not free. If you access the Internet from your home, it isn't free, someone is paying for that access. It might be bundled into your TV access costs or your tablet or smart phone Hotspot costs, but it's still not Free. And all those Apps you are getting for "Free" and email and social networking, that's not free either, we're just not paying for it with our money directly. We are exchanging our privacy for these "Free" Apps, because data is being recorded every time you do a search, every time you use Google Chrome, every time you use your Social Networking or Email software, your information is being recorded.

Now, these companies are not recording your social security numbers or credit card data, but they are recording your birth date, your location, your search terms, your viewings, the types of apps that you use and the things that you buy. This Data Mining is BIG business and it's making companies millions of dollars.

I am a cautious but a somewhat willing participant in this game. I find that there are definitely benefits to me for them having this information because there is some truth in the searching that I am doing and the web sites that I visit and the behaviors I exhibit online; a truth that is about the things I buy. Where I diverge is when my pictures become public property and other people have the right to post my pictures where-ever they like. I get particularly upset about this when it comes to kids.

Kids seem particularly unaware of the permanent nature of the internet, but worse, they are completely naive to what can be done with their information or pictures. Editing tools and comments make sharing this type of information risky, and for young kids they really don't understand etiquette with regard to "only comment or say things online that you'd be willing to say in person." Kids find it so easy to hide behind their devices. Adults do also, but the kids are still forming ideas and need better guidance on these things. Adults need to behave more like adults.

Nothing is free. Your kids and all of us need to understand what we are giving up when we partake in activities online. It's not free, but the amount in which you are willing to pay with your privacy should be up to you, as the consumer, and the only way you can do that is by knowing/understanding what you are paying.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Themes and Styles

New blogs will now include excerpts from my Computer training curriculum. I am starting with design tools Themes and Styles in Microsoft Word:

A Theme is an overall design for your document and it includes the following elements:
·         Color
·         Fonts
·         Styles
These days color is used more often in a document because we share electronically rather than through print. Even if you don’t use color you can really “dress up” a document using shades of black and white rather than just having everything black. A dark gray can be far more attractive and even less harsh on the eyes than a straight up black font color. These color variations impact many aspects of your document, more than you think. Color can be used not only for text but for borders, shading both in tables and for other objects you might insert like pictures or text boxes.

Fonts are another great way to “dress up” you document by creating some variation. A reader is very helpfully guided through your text when it is distinguished in some way, i.e. if you are using headings to identify sections of your document. By using different fonts for different “types” and you are consistent with the use of them, you can really help the reader identify the text as they read.

Styles are a great way to create this consistency. A style is a tool you can use to save the formatting for particular types of text in your document, so when that type of text comes up you can apply the style rather than having to set up the formatting repeatedly. Styles are automatically set up for you in a document that you can utilize and depending on the Theme you choose the Styles will be designed with that theme’s settings of colors and fonts. You can use these styles or set up your own or both. One important note about Styles: the Heading Styles that are set-up by Microsoft are linked to other tools that can be utilized in your document. Some of these are Reference Tools including Table of Contents and Index, another is the Navigation Pane which sets up links to these Heading Styles in a pane on the left side of your screen. So use the Heading Styles but modify them as you want them for your own document design.

A common question when working with formatting is how to “reset” the formatting when things seem to be varied and potentially “messed up.” You can select all of the text in a document and Clear the Formatting, this is one option, i.e. Ctrl+A (select All), then select the Clear Formatting Tool on the Ribbon (Home Tab Font Group). Another option is to apply the Normal Style to everything and go from there. The Normal Style will be the default Style for all text and paragraphs using the Theme settings you have chosen.

Styles can also be modified. When you apply the Styles from the Theme you have chosen you might like parts of the formatting but not all of it. You can modify the styles to your liking. We will be using the Styles Pane to modify our Styles because this pane has many options available and is very useful when utilizing Styles in your document.
In addition to modifying your existing styles you can create your own. Sometimes there is a need for a new and specific style for your document. When you create these new styles, they are, by default, for the document you are in, only. You can change this option in the Style dialogue box by selecting “New documents based on this template” which will then put the Style in the main style usage list.
Styles can be created by formatting the text first then creating a style BASED on that formatting OR you can create the style and choose the formatting in the dialogue box. Either method is useful because sometimes you are in a document and you realize that a particular paragraph formatting repeats itself in the document, so a Style seems prudent, other times you know exactly the styles you want and will need before you even start typing, so you create the Style first. 


I hate the word Normal. Defined as "conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural." by The very first word defining it is so off putting it's enough to hate the word, "conforming." But then you have to decide what the standard is to which you must conform. And who gets to decide that? This is where the problem comes in, groups of people decide they are the determiner of normal. I think we should only apply normal to our own personal views and to things. You have a view of what normal is based on your own experiences and with whom you spend time, but that view of normal could be changed as you broaden your experiences. 

Normal as applied to things is much easier, "Normally when I open Microsoft Word the font is 11 point font size." or "The normal position of my computer is in the center of my desk." These normals don't illicit controversy or upset. We get into trouble when my normal doesn't match your normal, and by "we" and "my" I am referring to the world at large not just the individual me. 

I understand that normal gives people comfort, but your discomfort with another person's normal is intrusive, judgmental and inappropriate. What gives you the right to dictate to someone else that they have to follow your normal? You aren't comfortable with someone being gay because it is outside your normal, so that gives you the right to tell them they cannot be that?  That they are not normal?

Ah, so that's where the laws come into play... if you make it illegal to be something then you are given the "right" to tell someone they are not "normal." So this is why the laws have to be analyzed and changed. Someone being gay or gay couples getting married does not effect you beyond making you uncomfortable or going against some belief that you have, but you can still hold onto that belief while others work in the new "normal." The worst that happens to you is that you are uncomfortable, but for the people who are being put outside "normal" with laws are made to feel not normal, which is much worse, because it means they have to conform to YOUR normal which is non-inclusive. Their normal does not eliminate you from the group of Normal, it just adds more people to it and makes you uncomfortable.

Of course history has proven that laws must change, and thankfully there have been and continue to be strong people to stand up for themselves and get their normal included so that it can all be normal. This has been done time and time again for women and for people of color, and continues to do so as people from each of these groups defy what people consider to be normal. Gays, lesbians, transsexuals, bisexuals, queers, they are now standing up and asking us to get rid of these crazy laws that declare them not "normal." This opens the doors and society to a new "normal" which is harmful to no one. 

Murderers, rapists, thieves, these are people that live outside the normal and should continue to have laws against, because their behavior is harmful to others in a physical way or well being. All gays and lesbians and the like do are make others uncomfortable. 

I don't want to hear anymore arguments against gays and lesbians using the word Normal. Too bad if it is outside your normal, your discomfort is not enough to make laws against it. Deal with it either by figuring out how to deal with your discomfort or by broadening your own definition of "Normal."  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Question of Ethics...

When I was 12 or so, I went out with my brother to get a newspaper from one of those newspaper machines on the street. I needed it for a school homework assignment and my mother couldn't afford to have the paper delivered. At the time I believe the paper was 25 cents. So my brother drives me to a nearby 7-Eleven or Dairymart or something like that and I buy a paper from the machine. Well, for some reason I thought, "hmmm, there's nothing to stop me from taking 2 papers," so I took 2. You see the newspaper machines were designed on the honor system, put a quarter in and take 1 paper out, even though you could, technically, take all of the papers out. I didn't need 2 papers, but they were there and so I took 2. My mother asked why I had 2 papers and I told her, "because I could. Did you know when you put your quarter in, all the papers are just there for you to take?" She was aghast. She could not believe her own child would do such a thing. "Our society runs in a civilized way because of the premise that we will all behave honorably; following the rules, paying for goods and services, etc." She drove me back to the machine and made me put another quarter in. I'm not sure why I could not return the paper but I do remember paying the second quarter.

Here's my ethics question for today: A large company, very profitable, makes an error in your favor. An item you have purchased but exchanged (because the first one didn't work properly) is credited as a return not as an exchange. Do you tell the company?

For me the answer was, of course, yes. But as I was telling this company they'd made an error (about which they were very confused, by the way), I could not help feeling that this company owed me something for being honest. I was, after all, saving them this loss of a sale (the item was not an inexpensive one). I wanted compensation for my doing the right thing because a little bit of me felt foolish for even bringing it to the company's attention. There is a good chance this would have gone unnoticed on their end, I would have, could have, gotten the item for free. In the end the company gave me what amounted to about $50 off the item. I was glad for this, felt better having gotten something, but still felt there should have been more. After all I did the right thing AND I spent 40 minutes of my life straightening out the situation for THEM. I found myself saying that I felt the company should "do the right thing" by compensating me for the time I had now spent straightening out their mess. I feel certain I'd have gotten nothing if I had not said that, they'd have just fixed their error that I brought to their attention. But did I even deserve compensation? Maybe, since I did have to spend the time to help them fix their error, but shouldn't I have just done it because it was the right thing to do?

This is where I think the strongest argument for Corporations not being people comes. I don't think Corporations do anything they are not forced to do by the law. I was reading an agreement I had to sign with my Credit Card Company and there are many lines that say that they can change anything at their discretion as long as the law allows it, which to me reads, "We can take advantage of you as long as the law does not prevent us from doing so."

In today's world I felt like a little bit of a schmuck for not just letting the company make their mistake and reap the benefits on my end. But I could hear my mother and her words of "Civilized Society." And she's right. I feel better when I am driving on the roads with people following the Traffic Laws, and I feel better out in the world in general when it feels like people will do the right thing. I don't feel like that's the norm, though, and that perhaps or civility is crumbling a bit. Videos of people beating other people to get the item on the sale rack... But I can feel better knowing that I did the right thing and I set the right example for my kids. It's not a dog-eat-dog world out there... or at least it doesn't have to be.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

When did we stop...

caring about how we present? I attended a talk today which was accompanied by the requisite PowerPoint presentation. The speaker herself was clear, well organized, confident and had some thoughtful things to say and share. The presentation, however, was, in my mind... worthless during the talk. The PowerPoint slides contained far too much text, there were titles that wrapped down to the next line which had some of the text up into the top border graphic and on one slide she specifically said "Here are the 4 points..." yet, once again, they were hidden in a block of too much text. I realize people are against bullet points as a design tool because they are boring, but if you have four points to share, don't hide them in italics amongst a paragraph of text when you are presenting a PowerPoint.

A PowerPoint presentation should be an enhancement to your talk. It should not be there just to be there, nor should it distract from what you are saying. The text on the page should highlight what you are saying not BE what you are saying. And if people would just take a moment to design, just a little bit, the whole thing would be more professional and well received. As it was, I was so distracted by the lack of any design or care to make the content project well, I missed a lot of the talk itself. I'm going to guess that people there that don't have knowledge of design just ignored the PowerPoint and listened to her speak. There were some requests for copies of the presentation afterward, but this is because the slides themselves contained her talk. So why have it accept to hand out later as a reference?

When I was working with Microsoft at different venues across the country at conferences, there was a lot of work and care that went into the PowerPoint presentation looking good and doing it's job (enhancing the speaker's talk). Now, for obvious reasons, Microsoft cared a great deal about the PowerPoints looking good, it is their software, it wasn't just the speaker that would look good, but their software would look good, too. But for those of us that benefit from visual aid when listening to a talk, I was grateful when a presentation was done well. We don't all learn from listening... I'm sure you've heard of this by now, there are different types of learners... auditory, kin-esthetic, etc.

I have now been to two presentations in the last 2 months where the presentation aspect of the talk was neglected and therefore distracting. The presentation was there because it would seem it is now required if you want to speak in front of a group. PowerPoint can get a bad wrap, but the truth is that Presentations can and when done well DO enhance a talk. But they have to be done well. It is worth the care. This downward trend toward not caring about the presentation and it just being enough to have one... is worse than not having one at all.