Featured Post

Who’s the Bravest of Them All? Single Moms

Several years ago I worked with a company that specialized in marketing to moms. They were very good at what they did. When one of the...

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Who Is the Bravest of Them All? Michelle Obama Still Becoming

I just finished Michelle Obama's book Becoming and it took far longer to read than expected. The story of her life from blue collar beginnings on Chicago's South Side was so rich with detail, so stirring, that I found myself savoring it after every section. The early part of her life was set up so carefully, a childhood on the top floor of a relative's home, lessons from a battered piano, her mother's determination that her kids would grow up confident and self-reliant. Remembering what we had in the Obamas -a role model family who loved and cared for each other and their country deeply - was a haunting evocation of what life used to be.

I raised my children during the Obama years and they grew up in a diverse area in the very blue state of Maryland. Their childhood mimicked mine in the 1960s, exploring the neighborhood, getting into minor scrapes with neighbors, the freedom to just be kids. The Obamas were always present but part of our lives in a peripheral way.  Michelle Obama spoke at my kids' high school, my daughter caught a glimpse of the president while playing basketball in the White House, she heard tales from club soccer teammates of Malia at their parties and what the secret service let them get away with. President Obama did a PSA for us when we launched the first USA Science & Engineering Festival.

The Obamas had a strong sense of family. Even though I was a single parent and our family cocoon was badly damaged, our country's first family was a role model we could count on to prevail. My kids grew into better, more hopeful people because of it.

Michelle Obama is the bravest of women on many levels mostly because she is willing to tell the world that she was not always Brave.  She, like every woman I know, had to get past that nagging voice in the back of her head repeating that she was not smart enough, good enough, pretty enough, strong enough, mother enough - or Brave enough - to be successful in what she decided to take on.  Work harder, the voice told her, organize yourself, set goals and exceed them. She writes of holding herself to a higher standard - that as the first black FLOTUS her every move was scrutinized and dissected, mostly from the right, but from others as well. She could not make mistakes and when she did there was no time to dwell on them. As she put it, there is no handbook for first ladies.

But her drive for perfection didn't overcome her. Becoming is written through a lens of optimism and often amusement at the role she found herself in. One anecdote from 2009 talks about bonding with Queen Elizabeth II over the pain of wearing heels. After weeks of schooling in royal protocol, Michelle put hand on the Queen's shoulder as they commiserated, an unconscious gesture and a royal  OMG, that stunned the Brits and got damning press. The Queen was a sport about it and responded by briefly placing a hand on Michelle's waist.  How hard it must be for Michelle to see herself replaced by a woman who openly does not want the honor of first lady, and says "I really don't care, do you?"

The food industry was cowed by Michelle's bravery. The first six months of her stint in the White House she created a vegetable garden with the help of local school children, to begin teaching families about healthy eating. When Barack ran for president family meals were often take-out and after a pediatrician warned her that Malia was at risk for diabetes based on BMI levels, her relationship with food underwent a transformation. The garden would morph into a national movement and after extensive negotiations, the food industry would redesign school lunches and ingredients to make the foods of childhood healthier. The data, which is detailed in Becoming, is impressive and was not shared widely enough at the time. A lot of her victories were about reducing salt and sugar content, and the national conversation about better nutrition are ongoing.

There are moments in Becoming when I just want to hug Michelle Obama, not the way she almost hugged the queen but a big bear hug, the kind that makes troubles go away. Michelle was a hugger and  she used hugs to diffuse discomfort and immediately show empathy.  I wanted to hug her when she talked about her South Side of Chicago upbringing, that when she got into a tough spot her mother would listen carefully and then tell her to figure out the answer for herself. I wanted to hug her when she discussed the slow decline of her father's health and mobility from multiple sclerosis, which I  watched with my own mother. As young teens we both saw them go from vibrant people to losing their ability to walk, control their limbs, to be who they were.  And I especially wanted to hug her when she talked about Barack, about learning to accept him as a man with a higher purpose, and the loneliness and frustration that it brought.

Becoming is not a perfect book, some sections area bit too long while the final years of Barack's presidency are glazed over with less discussion of what it all meant.  But unlike the trite, ghostwritten missives of other former first ladies, it does tell the truth from the first page to the last. One of the most interesting parts for me was about raising her two girls under the shadow of the White House and trying to give them as normal a life as possible. Instead of parading their children in front of the media, the Obamas made their Portuguese water dogs media stars, with Sunny often brought out to pose for photographers. They had nightly family dinners, decided in counseling when the girls were young, and a staple of their home that my family barely managed once a week. 

Read Becoming. It's the story of a Brave woman who is not afraid to admit how hard she worked to be Brave. Absorb her optimism. Find your connections to her challenges. And most important remember, Brave women go high when they go low. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Who's the Bravest of Them All? Interfaith Leaders

Four nights after the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh was assailed by an armed gunman, I went to a synagogue in a strip mall in Florida and heard the voices of hope.

Barry Silver, an outspoken rabbi with a shock of grey black hair, leads the synagogue L’Dor Va-dor in Boynton Beach, FL. Within 72 hours of the massacre, he pulled together a service led by the Interfaith Justice League to honor the lives lost and address the pain of a close-knit community. 

In his email explaining the purpose of holding the service Silver said, “Jews are strengthened by allies of all faiths as we combat anti-
Semitism, racism and violence in all forms. “

The interfaith service was held in a sparsely adorned room with folding metal chairs. Young and old, black, brown and white, the worshippers were a diverse group. About 25 percent of the full house was the temple’s regular congregation. 

When I arrived Silver’s 93 year-old mother Elaine was speaking about her basic optimism in the face of adversity.  Shafayat Mohamed of the Darul Uloom Islamic Center in Pembroke Pines spoke of how much stronger we are when religions unite in times of struggle.

A young black man named Julius Sanna, a pastor at Joy Church in Delray Beach, came to the stage with his guitar and sang “We Shall Overcome,” the anthem of the civil rights movement. Everyone joined hands to sing, "We shall overcome someday. . ." 

Hope lit the room.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Who's the Bravest of Them All? Christine Blasey Ford

So hard to believe that after all this time men still feel entitled to a woman when they want her, no matter what she wants. The #MeToo movement is unmasking this and most recently a Supreme Court nominee is charged with sexual assault by several women.

I am a woman of the same generation as Dr. Ford and I remember trains. That's right, trains in fraternity houses where boys waited on line for their turn with a girl who was so wasted she often had no idea what was going on. They were frat house lore and luckily I only came across an actual one in a bedroom at a frat party where I boy I knew said "We need you to get out of here." 

As a survivor of more than one sexual assault, I understand Dr. Ford's reluctance to come forward and the trail of fear that follows you for the rest of your life. There will be a moment when you feel trapped and panic swallows you, an unexpected touch on a train when you realize how vulnerable you are. Like Dr. Ford I also ran into a boy who assaulted me in college, at dinner on my birthday with my father and a close friend. I could barely function and of course I never told anyone why.

And then there is this moment in time, first #MeToo as they brought down powerful men who were serial abusers, and now as Brett Kavanaugh cries in anger that a woman would remember what he did to her and talk about it. He is indignant and repugnant and he does not deserve to be on the Supreme Court.

I've had years of therapy and it struck me yesterday that I never told a single therapist about any sexual assault. That's how deeply we bury what hurts us the most.

Dr. Ford you are my hero. You are the voice of every female survivor and we are so proud of you. Don't let them get to you. Your bravery is an inspiration to all of us.

Image result for pictures of christine blasey ford
600 × 397Images may be subject to copyrightLearn More

Monday, September 24, 2018

Are you hiring a Brave Public Relations firm? Seven questions to ask.

I cannot count the number of companies who have told me that they wasted their money on PR. That there was a lot of activity in the beginning and then it dropped off. Or that they did not get what they were promised. Bad PR people give us a all a Bad Name.

Bravery in the PR field is in short supply. Success for most PR people is to keep the client happy and tell them what they want to hear. Often hiring starts with a search - firms come in and they tell the potential client that they know so and so at the NY Times and so and so at the Wall Street Journal and so and so at whatever media they want to be in. They list big name clients on their website as examples of how amazing their work is. They bring in the founder and a couple of senior managers who talk a great game. What they don't tell you is that the client list dates back to when they started in business. That you will only speak to the people in the room again if something goes very wrong.

Here are some questions you can ask and actions you can take to insure you are getting what you pay for.

1. What is your approach to message development and can you provide an example of how you worked with a client to create a successful messaging strategy and implemented it? Please refer to a campaign less than five years old.

2. Which clients on your list are currently active with your firm and can we have the names of a couple of clients for references?

3. Can you give us examples of a few recent stories that you placed for these clients and how you placed them?

4. Are the people in this room the people who will work on my business? If not, who will and can we meet them?

5. Can you give us a couple of examples of how you think - for example, a public relations strategy that ran into problems and how you addressed it with the client and fixed it?

6. What is your annual client retention rate and can we see data on this?

7. How do you use analytic measurements to help guide your PR strategy and how often will I receive these?

8. If I come to you with a pitch that I love such as X,Y, Z how will you implement it? (This is a trick question because a PR firm worth its salt will come to you with ideas and adjust pitches depending on feedback from the media).

9. Can you give us a couple of recent examples of how your social and traditional media strategies were maximized for greater impact?

Friday, June 22, 2018

Five Traits That Make a Brave Woman Brave 

  1. Brave women know what it is like to be afraid and they take that fear - nourish, use it and push forward with it. Does their fear every really go away? No. But it does make them stronger and those around them benefit.
  2. Brave women say what that they really think. I cannot begin to count the number of meetings I have been in where I've said something smart, it is ignored, and then 15 minutes later it becomes the brilliant idea of someone more senior in the room. With clients you just have to grin and bear it. When you work for a company, your office or the bathroom is a great place to scream.
  3. Brave women admit when they make a mistake. This one throws men in a company, mostly because they throw women under the bus because to them an error is weakness (women do it too BTW).  I once made a big error in abbreviating a series of point that a federal agency director made, without the miles of context she felt needed to be part of it. The idea was to spur her to reference it but not to make it the subject of her talk. A younger person that I worked with on the speech was blamed. She and the director were stunned when I said that I was responsible.
  4. Brave women delegate. Even though you could more quickly do a task, and likely do it better than a junior employee, the whole point is to let them do it. People make this mistake all the time with designers - they get all caught up in what font the designer is using, colors, how something flows on a page (which is never what they think it is). The designer has a vision too and if you have given them the tools they need, they don't need you to design. Just have a discussion.
  5. Brave women cry. In the corporate world women's tears are considered a sign of weakness. She cannot control her emotions, she takes everything so personally, she cannot be criticized. Bullshit. Women cry because they feel something and in marketing you want the consumer to feel something. You want them to like you, to care about your brand, to feel connected. If it makes you cry or laugh more the better. Don't be afraid of emotion. It's what makes us human. It also makes us consumers.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Who's the Bravest of Them All - Us if we could just stop reading and watching the news

Since I am a writer and publicist it's important for me to know what people in DC and around the country are saying about what's happening in the world.

My daily dose of Trump outrage comes in many forms. Emails from political candidates with one word come ons in all caps flood my inbox as quickly as I can disengage from their lists. The news - which I get from NPR, the New York Times and the Washington Post - all of which I trust to at least give me the facts of what happened, are starting to play along. Plus various interest groups, newsletters, people, etc. that I have signed up for send me missives all day long.

Then there is Nita and Shauna of Ultraviolet, the queens of screaming in all caps, that I keep around because they want to eliminate sexism but are just too loud. Add to that Twitter, Facebook, and other social media and the comment sections of media that I actually read and contribute too. Aimee and her arguments with bots - how pathetic is that?

I even will briefly stomach Fox News to understand what the rest of us are up against.

But I just cannot take it anymore. Any of it. We are living in an alternate universe manipulated by a master at it, our president, and an endless cycle of "info wars" spews stuff out to see what sticks. Mainstream media plays along and debates everything Trump does as though it is not his "flavor of the moment" but something that if discussed could be addressed. That's ludicrous but at least they haven't brought out daily scorecards of who is winning. Did I mention that I don't watch CNN. I'm sure they have them.

The worst part of this American nightmare our country created and is now trying to survive in is that a 24 hour news cycle all of it is in front of us all day, all night. Last night I dreamt - how can I make this stuff up - that I was sitting in a board room with Donald Trump and he fired me. Just turned and looked me straight in  the face (which he does not appear to have done with any of the other people whom he fires). Probably my resting brain went back to The Apprentice's first season some of which I actually watched.

So I will be brave. I will take the pledge to only look at the news for 30 minutes a day. I will read novels of which I have several sitting on my bed beckoning me. I will write more. I will market more. The world will go on without me. And hopefully when I wake up every morning it won't be with that crushing sense of dread that we have all come to recognize as the new normal.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Who's the Bravest of them All? The French call him Spiderman

The story is out of a movie script. A Malian immigrant in Paris had just left a soccer game playing in one of the outdoor theaters, in I cannot remember which arrondissement. 

He saw a little boy hanging off a four story terrace desperately trying to hold on. Without a moment's hesitation he was scaling the side of the building to save the boy.

Now that's Brave.


Monday, May 14, 2018

Who's the Bravest of Them All? Happy Mother's Day Robin

We lost her just over a year ago and I feel, as many others who loved her do, like a gaping hole has been cut in the fabric of my life.

I do not know all the parts of Robin's story, but I do know when it changed.

One of the bravest women I know and a role model to me,  Robin was a woman who made the best of everything. She was progressive, optimistic, and she had a great big heart.

Robin was a child of the 1950s, poodle skirts, bouffant hair, and a smile that brightened every room she walked into. She loved all types of music and her rendition of Under the Boardwalk could get a room going. She was a ballroom dancer who won awards and kept up with it her whole life. She said she never felt more beautiful than when she danced.

One night Robin's husband went out for ice-cream and never came back. She had a baby who is now in his 50s. Turned out he got his girlfriend pregnant and then he married her. She was on her own with a young boy and kept moving forward. She was tough and when she wanted something she got it.  She rarely faltered and she always landed on her feet. I got that from her.

At 30, she met and married my father, a widower, and came into a house where the children had just lost their mom. She was kind and she tried and tried but what she wanted was us all to be a family, and that never really happened. In the meantime, she started a flea market business and made her own money. The marriage lasted 17 years, which she said was the longest time anyone should be married to the same person. After that she lived in Manhattan and danced and sang in piano bars and started making jewelry out of old watches.

Robin was the kind of woman who spent every day for months in my brother's hospital room when he was strapped to a bed, unable to move after breaking his neck. My father was the kind of man who let her do it.

In her sixties, Robin started a jewelry business called It's About Time. Her father was fascinated by timepieces and she took that childhood connection with him and started a company designing men's cufflinks and occasional pins made from old watches. The cufflinks were matched by hand and her work was  artistry - so unique in fact that for years her best customer was Saks Fifth Avenue. Every year she went to the flagship store on Fifth Avenue and told her story. An entrepreneur in her 60s and 70s. She was very brave.

The last time I saw Robin she was dancing (ballroom, jazz and ballet) and taking improv and art classes. She had finally gone to Florida to be with her family and made a life for herself. She was incredibly content and her joy in life was inspiring. I went home and decided to do more with mine.

She loved to read my writing. Happy Mother's Day Robin. You are the bravest of them all.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Who's the Bravest of Them All? Women Are

That's right.

Desiree Linden winning the 2018 Boston Marathon.

The Boston Marathon, one of the toughest in the country, is a test of character and physical prowess. Then why do men drop out more frequently than women? Take a look at the data.

For men this year, the dropout rate was up almost 80 percent from 2017; for women, it was up only about 12 percent. Overall, 5 percent of men dropped out, versus just 3.8 percent of women. The trend was true at the elite level, too. Conditions were particularly harsh this year.

According to the article in the New York Times written by Lindsay Crouse there are multiple reasons why women rule. 

  • They persevere no matter how tough it gets for multiple reasons.
  • They perform better than men in extreme conditions.
  • They have a higher tolerance for pain.
  • They pace themselves better.
  • They are better adjusted to meeting goals.
  • They finish what they start. (We are not quitters).


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Who is the Bravest of Them All? Tammy Jo Schults

Tammie Jo Shults is photographed in the early 1990s. (Courtesy Linda Maloney)

Tammie Jo Schults, a former Navy pilot, who landed a Southwest Airlines plane yesterday after losing all but one engine, and saved all but one passenger.

I have always admired women who go into professions dominated by men and where in many cases they are considered intruders who are not smart enough, or worse strong enough, to do the same job as men can. My generation broke down many barriers but it is those who came after us that are awesome.

Tammie Jo is a hero to all of us. She lived near an airport and spent much of her childhood watching planes fly overhead and wanting to fly them. In high school, she went to a meeting about becoming a military pilot and was asked if she had the wrong classroom.

A couple of branches of the military would not take her as a female pilot trainee but the Navy (not exactly a bastion of sexual liberation), did. Flash forward more than a decade later and the mother of two, and wife of another pilot, was flying a plane whose engine had exploded, there was a huge risk of fire, and part of it was missing. One passenger had been killed and seven others were injured.

She had to land that plane

Her mother said Tammie Jo is a very calming person, and she had the plane and passengers with her as she crash landed at the Philadelphia airport.

A college friend Cindy Foster told the Kansas City Star that Tammie never listened to the naysayers. "She said she wasn't going to let anyone tell her she couldn't"


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Who's the Bravest of them All? Maureen Dowd

Maureen Dowd has always been a voice I understood and could relate too. But in a recent opinion piece in the New York Times she struck home. Her question -

Why Would a Woman Go Home with a Man and not Want to have Sex with Him?

This question is at the top of what most women encounter at some point in their lives. They are on a date or they meet a man for the first, second, tenth time. There is an instant connection - they both want more. Then she goes to his apartment or home.

What matters and why this article is so spot on is that at some point whether clothes have been removed or not she decides she does not want to have sex with him. Lawyers will argue that if he forces her it is not data rape because she willingly put herself in that situation. But that's not the point at all. She has the right to change her mind. It's just that our legal system (by men, for men and implemented by men) often doesn't support her when she does. Shame the victim. Blame the victim.

It happens all the time. Not the rape part but the changing her mind. It could be something in his apartment, something he says, the way he pushes her to have sex, a hastily moved photo of another woman or that the glow didn't hold all the way through the night.

That's when women feel guilty. It's our fault. We have been told our whole lives that if we put ourselves in a situation like this it is our fault. And we end up having sex with a man when we don't want too. We've come this far. He won't leave us alone, So we do it anyway and it upsets us not necessarily in the moment but in the hasty moments afterwards when all we want to do is get the hell out of there.

Brave Women say NO. It's not easy and he may not take it well at all. But we can and we do say NO. The choice is ours.

Kudos to Maureen Dowd for raising the issue in the NYT so it can be broadly shared. Read on.


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Brave Woman: Isabella Rossellini and the Woman Who Brought her Back to Lancome

When Isabella Rossellini was 42,  Lancome after 15 years as their top model, let her go for being too old. At 65 she got a call that they wanted her back. The cynic in me questions the motives of Lancome, but the times are changing and so are women.

At a certain point, at least in my opinion, women don't want to imagine themselves as 30 year-olds. They want to look good just where they are. That's bravery in our youth obsessed world and it's also a sign that we women are no longer afraid to get older.


Friday, March 30, 2018

Who’s the Bravest of Them All? Single Moms

Several years ago I worked with a company that specialized in marketing to moms. They were very good at what they did. When one of the leaders was asked to do a talk about single mothers at an industry conference she gathered data and I’m sure gave a very good talk based upon what she learned. 

The problem was she wasn’t a single mother but a happily married millennial mom of I don’t know how many kids with a FitBit, time to jog, a nice car, beautifully put together appearance and a good/flexible career path. She could make sympathetic comments and that face that people make when you tell them that you don’t have a husband, but other than reading research and talking to a single moms it was definitely not her area of expertise.

So for today’s blog I pick single moms as the Bravest of them All. Trying to raise kids with an intermittent, if not absent spouse, is the hardest job anyone will ever have. And I’m not dissing single dads here but at least in my experience and that of women I know well the dads swooped in for a ballgame, wrote a child support check and showed up at birthdays and graduations most of the time. But they were not the primary parents to their children.

My saga is not atypical although I wish it was. When my daughter was five and my son was eight my ex-husband (who was in the throes of a forty something midlife crisis), picked a fight with me and announced in the middle of downtown Silver Spring, MD that “I am no longer your husband and I am no longer his father.” That cost me years of therapy for both of us and the little girl who was tagging along and heard the whole thing.

I may go into detail at a later date but suffice it to say that with only one parent I had to be home more. I started a freelance business and was the parent who was always there no matter what it cost me professionally and personally. For a long-time I was bitter about women who had husbands not because they were princes but because they had a second income. We lived from paycheck to paycheck, mortgage payment to mortgage payment, and there was never enough.

Some single moms have parents who help but mine were gone and there was no one to ask. We just kept going. I didn’t have a relationship with a man for six years because it was too much of a distraction from the children who really needed me.

Child support was OK in the beginning, but as he kept shrinking it, I kept spending every cent I had  in savings. There was so much frustration and anxiety and we were the only family who needed to ask for scholarships so they could play soccer. But we made it and there is more love and understanding and communication in our family than most I have seen. When the boys went off to a mountain cabin as teenagers and a furious parent called me up to tell me where my son was I knew where he was. He had asked my permission and I had given it. There was some of the usual teen lying in our house but when it came to the big things we told each other the truth.

When my daughter needed a therapist I tried to get as much help for her as I could even though the therapists recommended to us charged $250 an hour. Most of what she needed was someone to listen and on some levels I was part of the problem. But we kept talking and she came to me with what she could and she got through it. As I like to tell people neither of them is in jail and they are determined, principled young adults with good value systems and a sense of fairness that extends to everyone no matter race, background or circumstances. They are also focused on careers and working. What more can you ask for?

Anyway I am not here to whine – we all made it through – my son just graduated college and my daughter is in her freshman year. Financially we are in a much better place. My kids are happy and healthy and loving kids who are determined to find their place in this world, no matter how totally screwed up our country is at this moment.

Single moms are the Bravest of Them All. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Who’s the Bravest of Them All? Stormy Daniels

OK you can say whatever you want about the porn star who is making our president’s life hell. But you have to admit it takes guts for her to go after him like this.

I could spend hours debating Stormy’s motivation for trying to negate her hush agreement with Donald Trump (oops no with his lawyer who wrote her a check for $130,000 and says the president had nothing to do it, then got a check for a dollar or so less from the Trump organization). The lawyer says he paid her for I don’t even remember why. But it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he is Trump’s lawyer.

Stormy Daniels is out to make as much money as she can off of her alleged tryst with the Donald. That may be reprehensible to some but it’s also American capitalism at its finest. Our capitalist in chief should be proud of her.

I still believe Stormy Daniels is brave. And I have developed a grudging respect for her. She is an unabashed porn star. She says she was threatened and I believe her. She gave back the money. And now she is out for Stormy and fame on a national stage. Although she makes me squirm I get enormous pleasure from knowing she makes the evangelicals squirm more..

So Stormy you go girl. See what damage you can do and what you end up with.  I may regret writing this at some point. But somewhere way in the background I am glad you are doing it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Who's the Bravest of them All? Emma Gonzalez

The woman who most impresses me today is Emma Gonzalez.

The incredible dignity in her pauses – six minutes and 20 seconds where it really sunk in what she was saying. Where we pictured those kids terrified, running, dying and trying to save each other. Where a school resource officer was too terrified to go in the building. The good guy with the guy.

“In just over 16 minutes 17 of our friends were taken from us,” she said,  “Fifteen were injured and the Douglas community was forever altered.” Those of us at the March for Our Lives in Washington, DC were forever altered as well. Thank you Emma.

Emma Gonzalez March for Our Lives