113 Posts

We’ve all had it, the message from our email server fussing to let us know our account is 99.9% full. First response? Sort emails by size, save and delete a few of the largest offenders, then continue on with the day. Sound familiar? A few days ago, I took a look at the actual number of messages I had. Like a BMI reality check. It was a wake up call: Inbox = 12,543 messages, Outbox = 13,203 messages. And people wonder why I don’t take vacation!

Email and I have a love/hate relationship. I still remember the magic of email in the early days – it quietly and quickly took over for the loud and cranky fax machine. It was a fast way to communicate – avoiding the time and requisite niceties of a phone call to relay a short message. It revolutionized office space by allowing us to quickly save and store documents electronically. Email allows me to track decisions, conversations and creates accountability, a memory jog and fast access to lots of files and documents wherever I’m working. This format has taught me to be careful about what I type and get a second opinion on tricky messages before I click send. I can check email on my phone where ever I am to stay productive. Email always delivers its message – there is no busy signal.

And therein lies the challenge. We can send emails night and day – 7 days a week. There is a cultural expectation that emails will be returned quickly…email has speed us all up. The dark side of working everywhere is that, well, we can work everywhere! The pace of work was already fast – it didn’t need to get faster. It seems that every year the grump I get for taking a day to return an email grows. Due to its efficiency (and the ability to use a read receipt function) it is near impossible to come up with an excuse when trying to avoid something or someone. Let’s be real – we ALL know that we have to check our junk box (I once had a funding award letter in there). Sometimes I feel like my email is nagging me, rolling that boulder up hill – I can’t keep up and it creates stress. Can I get an “amen” out there?

Do not despair! There are suggested strategies for taming the crazy inbox. Here are a few I’ve found that I resolve to practice. If you’ve got another please comment and share!

  • Use the out of office function – set and hold expectations about how fast you will respond to messages when you are busy or out of the office.
  • Model the behavior you like – don’t send emails on weekends or evenings – you can work and write them but save them and send during normal work hours.
  • Be patient with other people’s response times.
  • Learn the tricks of your email platform and use them – categorize emails, flag the ones you can’t forget, keep only the final message in an email thread, delete the rest in a weekly purge (I know – practice what you preach lady)
  • Set aside specific times during the day to respond to email being sure to turn it off and think once in a while.
  • Unsubscribe from listservs or email lists that fill your inbox with info you don’t need.
  • Pick up the phone – when the back and forth on a topic exceeds three emails it is time to talk.

This is not mission impossible. We can make peace with our inbox. I plan to start today!

I am a die-hard optimist. I am not only a “glass half full” kind of gal, I am a “glass is half full with half the calories OR I’m already partially hydrated”. I have always had a sunny outlook on life – to the point of being referred to as Pollyanna during a Fellowship interview (which felt insulting but hey I landed a spot). For many years I thought this positive attitude was genetic. In our family on my dad’s side there is the “happy” gene that can be traced across the generations. My grandmother Ethel had it as does my Aunt Mary, my cousin Marla and I, and Elaina in the newest cohort. This is the Monty Pythonesque “my arm is cut off but not the one holding my sword…how lucky” gene. This has been my truth for many years.

More recently in a conversation with my colleagues, a new layer has been added with the thought that social workers in general have a relatively hopeful outlook on life. After all, if WE don’t believe things can get better for the people we serve who will? So perhaps my optimistic attitude is a professional trait – proving that I made the right choice when I signed away fame and fortune to help save the world for a living.

A little more digging would quickly identify that I was extremely fortunate to have been raised by very loving parents who, along with my grandparents, aunts and uncles, modeled healthy relationships and unconditional love. We were not rich – not by a long shot – but we had what we needed. This firm foundation allowed me the chance to quickly get on with the business of being myself.

And all of this is my truth. And yet it isn’t the whole story.

At least half of my optimism is the result of my privilege – of being a person who is seen in the US as white. I grew up believing truly that I could make a difference.I grew up feeling at home in my skin. I generally (adolescence aside) am not afraid to be my authentic self – to speak the truth as I see it. I haven’t had to contort my face, my body, my words to conform with expectations based on the color of my skin. I didn’t grow up afraid of police officers or teachers or store clerks. The world was my oyster. I walk with a light spirit of ownership…coupled with responsibility…but ownership none-the-less. A line from TaNehisi Coates’ book, Between the World and Me, recently stopped me short. He, a black man, wrote to his black son, “You have been cast into a race in which the wind is always at your face and the hounds are always at your heels. And to varying degrees this is true of all life. The difference is that you do not have the privilege of living in ignorance of this essential fact.” My optimism is part ignorance.

This is hard to swallow and yet essential. I’ve recently come to understand that optimism can be dangerous and hurtful if deployed without thought. While I may be completely hopeful that this time we can fix racism, that feeling undermines the reality of my colleagues who after years of oppression have a really hard time generating a belief that things will change. My cheery – “it’s ok, we can make it happen” attitude probably makes some people want to pop me one. So while it is quite impossible and not necessary for me to turn the glass upside down, there is no excuse for not acknowledging that my generational optimism was the result of generational pain and that I have a deep, moral responsibility to wake up.

 

Vacations are good for us. They enhance our productivity, happiness and health.

I have an awkward relationship with vacations. I think about them – wish for them – have plenty of days to take them – and yet it’s July 27th and I’ve taken not taken more than one day off here and there this year. I’ve heard the recent stories on NPR about how
Vacations are good for us. They enhance our productivity, happiness and health.

More Link

Green sprouts in the rain

It is time for white people to wake up from “the Dream,” recognize the pain our privilege causes, and begin to make amends.

There has been so much said on social media since the seven murders last week and now today. Some powerful words have been shared. Some people have remained silent because they don’t feel they have to comment while others have been silent because they just don’t know what to say. Each time I think I’m ready to put my thoughts out in the world there is a Huffington Post article or a blog that either encapsulates it all – much better than I could – or just shuts my mouth and forces me to think. As a human relations fellow and a social worker who has endeavored to learn about and discuss power and privilege, the readings I share below made me realize what a beginner I am in this essential work. Here is some of what I’ve been reflecting on recently.More Link

Smiling Mother Playing With Baby Son At Home

Black women and their babies have suffered centuries of injustice. Black women’s voices are co-opted, but not heard. Change must happen.

Facts are facts, Black women living in the South face historic, ongoing challenges to their health and wellbeing. While we can argue that all women in the South could have better health outcomes, the reality is that Black women and their babies have suffered centuries of neglect and injustice. Further, Black women’s voices are often co-opted, paraphrased, summarized but not heard. There are insightful and important solutions, strategies, and stories out there that most of us never take the time to hear. Change must happen.More Link

Start sign on the road

Accepting messy and the need to apologize sometimes for inadvertent mistakes are better than silence.

No matter how frustrating life was the day before, or how long the night, out of the dark each morning rays of light emerge. Dawn is a cosmic reset button. I’ve always loved the idea of new beginnings – I am a fearless “resolutioner” every January. I start each day with a fresh “to do” list. I believe in second chances. And so, here we are, months after allowing this blog to lay fallow, a post.More Link

Oral health is KEY to overall health and the well-being of pregnant women and their babies. It is also a time when 3women are particularly vulnerable to poor oral health outcomes. It has long been known that hormonal changes commonly are associated with gingivitis (Löe, 1965). If left untreated, gingivitis may progress to periodontitis, which in turn may be associated with tooth loss (Russell, 2008), poor glucose control (Xiong, 1999) and preterm birth (Walia, 2015). Mothers with high rates of caries are also more likely to have children with high caries rates (Boggess, 2006) that may lead to pain and impact nutrition, speech development and permanent teeth eruption patterns.More Link

MeganImageThroughout the country governors, mayors, and even the president are issuing proclamations recognizing May as National Mental Health Awareness Month. But raising awareness about mental health and connecting people to service needs to happen year round. For me, as the Communications Specialist at NAMI North Carolina (The National Alliance on Mental Illness), it’s one of the most exciting times of the year. It gives me, and the rest of us at NAMI, the opportunity to talk about the importance of mental health awareness and eliminating stigma.

Millions of Americans are affected by mental health conditions. In fact, 1 in 5 Americans will experience mental illness in a given year.More Link

Ipuzzlen my eyes as a Public Health MD, there is a fundamental difference between prevention and intervention.   I practice prevention if I proactively address an outcome that has been experienced by some, and I make a concerted effort to trace that condition up stream and work to find opportunities for change, especially for those most at risk.  I practice intervention, on the other hand, when I wait until the disease process has already started and then start treating the symptoms. More Link

sarahphoto3Mother’s Day gives us the chance to reflect on our mother, the women who have been our mentors, and the mothers around us.  Motherhood is a messy, crazy, amazing, life-altering, life-long journey.  It is not for the faint hearted! Before my first child was born I couldn’t have imagined that within seconds of holding her in my arms I would willingly give my life to protect hers.

The decision to enter into this journey is certainly not one to be taken lightly. More Link