Sunday, November 11, 2007

random beauty.

Two months ago — September 11th — I had the opportunity to be part of something random. And remarkable.

An awesome Austin-based advertising agency owned by a college comrade of mine, EnviroMedia Social Marketing, honors this day each year by deliberately "paying it forward" — armed with $100 (from the firm's coffers), employee teams spend the morning of 9.11 performing random acts of kindness all over our community.

For example, this year, EnviroMedians helped pay daycare tuitions and cover veterinary bills; bought gift cards and doughnuts for schoolteachers, groceries for elderly shoppers, monthly bus passes for waiting passengers and reuseable water bottles for recycling-center volunteers; sent new toys to the children's hospital and totes full of toiletries to SafePlace; and surprised drivers with free fill-ups at a gas station, and one lucky waitress with a $100 tip.

I had the privilege of joining an EnviroMedia team, and we agreed to simply go to a downtown Starbuck's and pay for about 20 unsuspecting customers' morning caffeine fix. We sat at a table to the side of the counter, anonymously sipping our drinks and silently observing each patron's reaction as the barrista explained their tab had been covered and handed every one a business card, reading:

Smile — You're the recipient of a random act of kindness. It's part of Pay It Forward 9/11 Day, in honor of the victims and heroes of 9/11. Now it's your turn to do something nice for someone else.

Most folks sort of smiled and shrugged, a few shared it with the people they came with. Every person kept the card.

I can't express how ridiculously rewarding it was to feel we had made a difference for people that day. For some, it was likely just a notable event, a "Guess what happened to me today?" thing. For others, it might have been the saving grace of an otherwise cursed morning, the turning point between "Today is going to suck" and "Today might be okay after all." For all of them, I hope it served as an inspiration to follow the card's instructions and find a way to pay it forward — pass along a little kindness and keep this daisy chain of generosity going.

9.11 was a tragedy of taking — it took American lives, our sense of security and, at the moment, an unhealthy dose of our national spirit. To choose to remember such an event through a day of giving is brilliant, healing and, apparently, contagious. According to the Christian Science Monitor ("In 9/11 remembrance, a turning to good deeds"), making 9.11 into a day of kindness and good deeds is a movement sweeping across our country.

"The goal is to ensure that future generations remember not just the horror of the [terrorist] attacks, but also the extraordinary outpouring of humanity during the days, weeks and months that followed," writes CSM staffer Alexandra Marks.

Indeed, EnviroMedia principal (and my pal) Kevin Tuerff launched the Austin-based effort because he happened to be aboard a plane from Europe to the U.S. when the Twin Towers fell. His flight was diverted to Gander, Newfoundland, a small town that happily received and cared for almost 7,000 stranded passengers over several days. Tuerff's Pay It Forward 9/11 Day concept is a reflection of gratitude for the Newfoundlanders' nurturing and support during some of America's darkest days.

Now, is spreading the word as far as the Internet will reach. The organization managed to persuade the President this year to include, for the first time, a call for volunteering within his annual 9/11 proclamation, while over 250,000 visitors to the website pledged to do something good that day.

As the CSM article reports, "Studies at Harvard's Saguaro Seminar on Civic Engagement in America found that in as few as five months after 9/11, most Americans had gone back to their daily lives and were not more engaged as they said they'd hoped to be. Part of the goal of turning 9/11 into a national day of service is to remind Americans of the inherent joy of giving, and to hopefully spur volunteering and charitable acts throughout the year."

Tuerff concurs, "We hope that this can be a regular activity, that people can try to make a difference and restore faith in humanity."

Amen, my friend. Amen.

So here we are, sandwiched smack-dab between 9.11 and the holidays ... what can you do today to pay it forward? [Hint hint: Read through to the close of this post for a list of great ideas and resources.]

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Managing Your Energy.

In every issue of "Skirting," thanks to the gracious generosity of Austin author and life coach Renée Trudeau, I include a little morsel about or from her wonderful book, The Mother's Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life. The book is available at Renée's website, at, or locally at Book Woman, Book People or The Crossings.

Who or what receives the majority of your attention, time and energy?

We each have a finite amount of energy, time and resources. Most of us waste our energy every day without even realizing it — through lengthy, sometimes unnecessary phone conversations; endless time plugged into email, the Web or watching TV; tolerating disorganized spaces; going to social gatherings or volunteer events we don't want to attend, but feel we should attend; and on and on.

Not only are those activities unfulfilling — and often draining — but they are also zapping our precious energy and resources, and keeping us from spending time on things that fuel us — like being with friends, connecting with our partners, enjoying our children or spending time outdoors.

Think about key areas of your life: your relationship with your partner or other family members; your role as a parent; your friendships; your emotional and physical health; your spiritual well-being; your financial state; your household; your career or community work.

What are your top life priorities, and does the way you allocate your time and energy reflect these choices?

Complete the following sentence:
My top three life priorities based upon how I currently allocate my energy and resources are ...

Reflect on this list, and create a new list based upon how you want to direct your energy over the next three months. What in your life is calling for your attention right now?

My new top three life priorities for the next 90 days are ...

You always have a choice, and when you're an active person with a busy life, you must be cautious before committing to activities not included on your Top Life Priorities List.

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Katrina kindnesses.

Two years and two months post-Katrina, and the news from New Orleans still ain't-a good news — media coverage is chock full o' shocking and shameful stories of what's not happening to reconstruct the Gulf Coast.

But, according to's Lynn Harris, there are some tales of progress to be told, and women are weaving them. The Ms. Foundation for Women's Katrina Women's Response Fund is offering support to organizations doing wonderful women's work — groups like Coastal Women for Change, the United Houma Nation Relief Fund, the Southern Rural Black Women's Initiative, and the Women's Foundation for a Greater Memphis.

"If nothing else, Katrina and her ravages have given us an opportunity to shift the status quo in a new direction," wrote Sara Gould, president and CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women, and Cynthia Schmae, COO of the Women's Funding Network, in Women's eNews. "A direction in which the needs of women and families fall at the center — not the margins — of policy agendas. [S]ervices and policy-making processes that put women first have the capacity to lift families and whole communities out of misery."

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'Tweens: tots or trollops?

OK, I officially hate the term "tweens." It's clearly a category completely fabricated by advertisers/marketers — sort of like how Hallmark just continues to create occasions to send the very best (Congratulations on this month's last heavy-flow day!).

According to Wikipedia, a tween is defined as a "preteen, a child between middle childhood and adolescence, generally in the age range of 8 to 12 years old" (or a hobbit between the ages of 20 and 32). So really, an 8-year-old is now considered a preteen (as the mother of a 9-year-old, this alarms me)?? How can we legitimately call someone 5 years away from teenhood a "preteen" when they're still only 8 years away from newborn? How absurd would it be to call a 5-year-old a "post-infant"?

It seems to me, the important word within this definition is child. What's happening with our culture that we insist upon forcing our children into adulthood at a younger and younger age? What's wrong with calling a child a child, and letting our children have full-blown, 12-year-long childhoods? And am I the only one who believes this uber-creepy trend is feeding the sickness of the hundreds of thousands of pedophiles walking around luring in their prey with Bratz dolls? (Here's a it's-not-paranoia-if-it's-real statistic for you: There are more than 400,000 registered sex offenders in the U.S. — not all pedophiles, granted, but that number reflects only the pervs who've been caught, convicted and registered.)

Two articles regarding this rising sexualization of girls recently caught my attention. First, "Lolita's Closet," written by Slate's Emily Yoffe, who along with her 11-year-old daughter sought the elusive middle-ground between trendy and trampy while shopping for back-to-school wear. The worst offender? Padded, push-up bras for tweens-in-waiting at Limited, Too.

Second, a New York Times piece about Nair's new campaign aiming at 10- to 15-year-olds — or, as the industry refers to them, "first-time hair removers" What hair?!?!? — with its new Nair Pretty depilatory product. Running in teen-targeted pubs like CosmoGirl and Seventeen, the campaign markets directly to middle-schoolers, and (maybe even more weirdly) their mothers, with additional ads in Redbook ("Introducing our first hair remover made for your daughter’s young skin, skin that’s prone to cuts and nicks"). The most disturbing facet of this manufactured fashion? Hair-removal slumber parties. Whatever happened to good clean fun like freezing each others' brassieres and practicing the occult (remember "stiff as a feather, light as a board"?)?

The glimmer of good news is, someone official is paying attention to — and condemning — our society's tendency to turn our darling daughters into hairless hussies. The American Psychological Association Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls studied and issued a report on this vital feminine issue earlier this year; click through to read the report, or click through for the APA's list of what parents — and other influential adults! — can do to help teach girls to value themselves for who they are, rather than how "hot" they look.

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Hybrid is hip.

U.S. News and World Report recently ran a cover story all about a presumably new breed of mommy: the mompreneur. Funny thing is, if you google it, you find this term already widespread over the worldwide web. Funnier thing is, I discovered this term over five years ago with a book actually titled Mompreneurs (A Mother's Practical Step-by-Step Guide to Work-at-Home Success), by Patricia Cobe and Ellen Parlapiano — the original mompreneurs, I believe, since the book was originally published over decade ago. Today, you can explore a veritable cornucopia of mompreneur-related resources out there in cyberspace, including The Mompreneur magazine, the Mompreneur Center at, the Mompreneur Club, many, many mompreneur-related blogs, and Mompreneurs Online, from the original dual-life-balancing duo of Cobe and Parlapiano.

So maybe the entrepreneurial mama concept isn't quite as news-breaking as U.S. N&WR would like its readers to buy into, but it's definitely still new relative to women in the workplace and especially to the workplace in general. And as such, new angles are revealing themselves all the time. One of the newest is the creation of a new magazine called Hybrid Mom (tagline: We've evolved.). Published by Moms-for-Profit, a managing and consulting company dedicated to empowering — you guessed it — mompreneurs (or in the company's words, 'women who want to keep one foot in the workplace and the other playing Hokey Pokey' — love that!), Hybrid Mom caters to "a generation of moms who embrace their multiple identities."

So, what, exactly is a hybrid mom? You've gotta love this: An adult female who has discarded outdated and unrealistic conceptions of motherhood. She is parent, wife, volunteer and sometimes entrepreneur, all in one. Known for her strength, sense of humor and flexibility, a hybrid mom is actually a fusion of roles that suit her own individuality.

Who among us doesn't want to be her (even you kid-free gals, once you omit the parental references) when we grow up — er, evolve?

Like today's emerging environmentally friendly vehicles, let's hope the hip of hybrid carries over to the hybrids with hips!

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15 more ways to practice random acts of kindness today.
from Body & Soul magazine, 9.2007

1. Donate blood.
2. Hold the door.
3. Smile at a stranger.
4. Look cashiers in the eye and thank them.
5. Raise money for a cause you believe in.
6. Choose to be an organ donor.
7. Next time you're ready to honk at another car, don't.
8. Help a fellow traveler with her luggage.
9. Buy a meal for someone who's hungry.
10. Spend time with an elderly person.
11. Participate in a race to benefit a charity.
12. Invite someone who's not in your inner circle to a friendly gathering.
13. Contact a friend you haven't heard from for a while.
14. Stay calm during a stressful time.
15. Teach your children about giving.

For myriad more ways to be kind today and every day, visit

If we all share what we've been blessed with,
then we bless others with our sharing,
& so it goes.

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Celebrate the everyday.

  • November 13th — World Kindness Day

  • November 21st — World Hello Day

  • November 25th — International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

  • Remember, where there is connection, there is power.
    Where there is power, there is hope for change.
    For ourselves, and for our world.

    We are all connected. We are all powerful.
    Until my next post, be well, be happy & be hopeful.

    Please feel free to send along comments, questions, ideas, suggestions, or requests to be unsubscribed.
    I honor them all, just as I honor you.

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