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16 posts from September 2011

September 13, 2011

What's with women, self help and The View?




Men are fascinated by what women are thinking, they want insight into the opposite sex. So it doesn't really surprise me when I catch my hubbie reading my Cosmo magazine. Last night, I returned the favor. I picked up his Men's Health. It was the teaser on getting great abs that caught by eye, but I read on.....and found one of the most interesting articles I've read in a long time.

Writer Mike Zimmerman informed me that there's such a thing as Fem TV. You see, Men's Health ordered Mike to spend a week watching women's favorite TV shows -- over 7 days he watched 30 hours, everything from The Today Show to The View. He discovered a kingdom (or queendom) of incessant talk. "I've never seen such a barrage of how-to material," he writes. "You can be better, strong, sexier." The ads, he notes, are for weight loss, health and beauty products, shopping and making your life more fulfilling. 

He then throws out this question, which would be hilarious if it weren't so true: 

Is it possible that all these TV women are empowered victims? Life - their men, their bosses, this male-dominated society - goes against them and they overcome.

And then, Mike dishes out this warning to men:

As you watch these shows, you would never think women were at one time repressed in society...they control their own media world, bring their A game to all levels of government and are routinely discussed as CEOs and potential presidential candidates. Beware, men. The next decade may prove that if this is a war, women are winning.

Mike also points out that currently women have more advanced degrees, more high school diplomas and bachelor's degrees and if they point them to work, they may soon out earn men as they move into their 30s and 40s. "We may look back at this point in history as the tipping point when women became the more relevant gender."

He takes it all back to Fem TV and asks: Why do you think soap operas have been dying off in the past few years? Because the immediate, info-centric nature of self-improvement programs and talk shows appeals to women (and their daughters) who now know that they can do or be something.

Boy does this guy have it right! It's not just TV. Women networking events are all about empowerment and helping each other achieve more and more. So are the books we're reading and the fitness classes we're taking. We're into self-improvement in an extreme way that men just aren't.

I think it's because we haven't yet acknowledged that we are not the underdogs anymore. We still feel like so much is expected of us and we want to prove we're up for it. With all the time demands, we're will to make time to totally tune in to anyone who can tell us how to do something better. 

Readers, what do you think of women's obsession with the self-help movement? Is this a good thing? Are men benefiting from our drive to be better, from our being programmed to go out and achieve? Will we just eventually burnout from trying too hard? 


September 12, 2011

Tackling the "What am I going to do for dinner tonight?" dilemma


I know some people are super organized when it comes to planning out the week's menus. I'm not. I manage to get dinner on the table every night for my family but it's a part of the juggling act I loathe. I know lots of working parents whose work life balance depends on take-out.

Aimee Fortney to the rescue!

Aimee has her own website, www.nottheperfectcook.com. This is what she said in an email to me:

My passion is getting families back into the kitchen and out of drive-thrus for their meals. I shop at Publix, therefore each week I write a "Savor your Savings" blog, based on the sales offered that week at Publix. I call myself, "Not the Perfect Cook," as I am not a chef, but I can put a perfectly delicious, healthy meal on the table, as can your readers!

Below is a guest blog post Aimee wrote for all of us who face the nightly scramble to get dinner on the table for the family.



By Aimee Jackson Fortney

Busy, working parents can easily fall into a rut of, “Should we do carry out or drive thru tonight?” After a hectic day at work, the last thing many of us want to think about is pulling together a meal. With the economy the way it is, however, we are more mindful than ever how we spend our hard-earned money With just a little forethought, dinner for the week can be planned; even on a budget!

I shop at Publix. I call myself, “Not the Perfect Cook” because I am not a chef and I am by no means a culinary “expert.” I have kitchen disasters and messes just like the next person. That being said, I can still throw together a “perfectly” good meal for my family on a budget.

As soon as I receive the Publix sale ad, I plan out the week’s menu. Shopping the outer layout of the store ensures the healthiest items. (Produce, seafood, poultry/meats/dairy. Packaged items are on the inside aisles). One of my most recent finds is shark steak, normal price is $6.99 a pound. I am so excited about this new “love” of mine, and I make a tropical coconut fish dish that the shark steak is absolutely perfect for; and a peach habanero salsa goes with it. This is a delicious, easy dish to prepare that would easily cost $20.00 or more at a restaurant, and you can prepare this at home for your family, for pennies on the dollar compared to that amount. (Click here for recipe)

Utilizing the crock pot can become a working person’s best friend. In the morning while I am waiting on the coffee to brew, I throw into the crock pot a two-pound bag of pinto beans, a quartered onion, some cumin, sazón completa, two chicken bouillon cubes and 12 cups of water. Cover and cook on low all day for delicious Mexican beans for dinner.

My chicken enchiladas are not only delicious but they are crazy easy to prepare! You can use a rotisserie chicken that you have shredded, or I bake three boneless, skinless chicken breasts, then shred those. You could make these ahead of time, then reheat for dinner; or even make then refrigerate; pull out when you get home, then add the heavy cream and cheese on top and bake for 30 minutes. (click here for the recipe)


Another easy-to-make-at-home meal is pizza! You can buy pizza dough at the deli. (Often, Publix puts these on sale for $1.99 and I buy several to freeze!) The secret to a delicious, “gourmet” tasting pizza, in my opinion, is ricotta cheese. Put spoonfuls of ricotta, provolone cheese, mozzarella cheese, cook spinach, mushrooms, garlic and red onion and any other toppings that you like, and you have made a delicious, homemade pizza!

Once you develop a habit of planning meals, you might just find that even though you make a mess here and there, and you might be like me (Not the Perfect Cook). You will save money and find that sitting at the table to enjoy a meal with your family allows for “table talk” and memories that will last a lifetime.

September 11, 2011

My lessons and yours from 9/11: 10 years later

My youngest son was only three months old on September 11, 2001. I remember cradling him before I left for work. That entire day, as I watched in horror and heard about all the deaths, I prayed for all the babies whose mothers did not come home that night. 

That night, I felt guilty for nursing my son. What about that baby whose mom didn't come home to nurse him?

I vowed, as most of us did, to keep my priorities in order, to remember every day, that a few minutes can change our lives forever and that family must always come first. For the most part, I've kept my vow. But it hasn't been easy. I've had to make career sacrifices. I gave up the idea of being an editor because of the late nights. 

Every Sept. 11 since, I've thought about each of those babies who would be the same age as my son and wonder if their surviving parent or family member has made that child a priority. My son is 10. He's watching television with me today, hearing about the tragedy of 9/11 and I'm telling him how much I love him.

With technology keeping us tied to our email and distracting us with work concerns at all hours, I hope on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, we will be reminded how fragile life is and give ourselves permission to unplug as much as possible and make our loved ones a priority.

I just read Penelope Trunk's blog post about 9/11. She was in the World Trade Center and writes this: What I learned from the World Trade Center, ten years later, is that it’s okay to pull back. That 30 seconds when I thought I was dying gave me the strength to cut back on my fast-track life even though nothing else tells me that is a good idea. 

Do you think that our memories are short when it comes to priorities and the pledges we made 10 years ago? Have we come to fear more for our jobs than for the time we spend with our kids? Have we let technology interfere with our priorities? Your thoughts?


(Me and my boy)

September 07, 2011

Managing work demands without getting fired

I can't tell you over the years how many late nights I left the newsroom, arrived home and then spent a half hour on the phone with an editor. Then, there are those instances when I feel compelled to check my email at midnight to find out about a possible story interview the next day. It's just so darn impossible to avoid working 24/7. 

I saw something written on the topic of managing 24/7 work demands but when I began to interview people, I realized that some managers, particularly in the service business, feel they must be on call ALL THE TIME. Working this way still is new...with smartphones out only a short while and Internet connections available almost anywhere. Can all of us sustain this lifestyle?

For those of you who don't feel they can, I hope my column in today's Miami Herald gives you some suggestions you can put to use.

The Miami Herald

Managing 24/7 expectations

By Cindy Krischer Goodman

   Suzette Espinoza Fuentes, right/forward, assistant PR director for the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, controls after-hours work demands by developing a strong team who pitch in for each other. Espinoza is photographed with her team, which includes Crystal Brewe, left, Morgan Stockmayer, Claudia Tuck, Andrew Goldberg, right/rear outside the Ziff Ballet Opera House.
(Suzette Espinoza Fuentes, right/forward, assistant PR director for the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, controls after-hours work demands by developing a strong team who pitch in for each other. Espinoza is photographed with her team, which includes Crystal Brewe, left, Morgan Stockmayer, Claudia Tuck, Andrew Goldberg, right/rear outside the Ziff Ballet Opera House.)
Suzette Espinosa Fuentes loves her job handling publicity for The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. She gets to highlight performers and build interest for theater. But she also checks her email inbox in the evening before slipping under her covers and answers phone calls at kids’ birthday parties on the weekends.

“It is not that it’s expected,” she explains. “I do it out of a sense of responsibility.”

Like most American workers, doing our jobs well no longer means checking out at 5 p.m. The race to get work demands completed each day and stay up with customer needs often keeps us attached to our computer screens or cellphones at all hours.

People are getting these after-hours intrusions from all angles — from their boss, their colleagues, their customers, says Wayne A. Hochwarter, a professor of management at Florida State University. “I find it to be extremely stressful and sometimes it’s just excessive.”

Miami PR agency owner Tadd Schwartz has resigned himself to the new dynamics: “It’s about wanting to show the client you are there to service them. They clearly see the value in knowing that if a matter is important I’m going to be responsive regardless of the time or day.”

But do all jobs have to be 24/7? Can you control after-hours work demands without getting fired or losing a customer?

The question looms large with today’s workplace dynamics. Most employees feel lucky to have jobs and are putting in more hours with slimmed-down staffs. But job satisfaction is at a low point and most of us are desperate for better work-life balance.

For employees, there are ways to better manage expectations and cut back on intrusion on your personal time.

• Communication is crucial. People who can manage expectations for after-hours work are the ones who manage their boss while at work, says Hochwarter. “Let your boss know you will work as hard as you can to make him look successful while on your 40 or 50 hours. Tell him ‘if you need me and it’s an emergency, I’ll be there. But time away clears my head and makes me a better employee on Monday.’  ”

Sometimes, a boss or customer doesn’t realize a phone call on a Saturday morning is perceived as invasive. Hochwarter suggests employees guide a manager’s behavior by letting him know your weekend obligations — announce that you coach Little League on Saturday mornings or spend the morning at the gym.

Conversations with co-workers are important, too. Tell your co-workers they don’t need to copy you on an email on the weekend or late at night unless it’s crucial to your work responsibilities.

• Discuss expectations. Work with your manager to be clear about the policies covering off-hours. Maybe you’re answering an email at 10 p.m., but your manager doesn’t expect you to be on call at all hours.

Two out of three employees reported that they receive emails from their bosses over the weekend and one in three said they are expected to reply, according to Right Management. If you have been replying, it may have sent the message that you don’t mind the infringement on your personal time. If you are going to pull back, be clear with your manager or customer about how you now plan to handle after-hours work.

• Share the load. Get to know your colleagues. If you build good relationships with them, it will be easier to spot areas of overlap and share the burdens. If you see another team member struggling with something, offer to assist. Then when you are under pressure to stay late, chances are co-workers will help you in return.

That’s the way Espinosa Fuentes at the Performing Arts Center handles her job demands. “When someone physically can’t be here at night or on the weekend, someone else will jump in and take care of it,” she explains. She also has developed a sense of trust with her staff. If they send her an email after hours and don’t get an immediate response, they’ll move forward regardless. “I know I can count on them to handle it and handle it well.”

• Ask for help prioritizing assignments. In the legal profession, the technology that makes us available 24/7 has lawyers working at all hours. In a new National Law Journal survey of more than 5,300 law firm associates, the lawyers reported having their most demanding year since the downturn began — with after-hours demands adding the equivalent of two extra weeks of work. Of course, the poll revealed the lowest associate satisfaction score in almost a decade. Tae Shin of Roetzel & Andress in Fort Lauderdale and Orlando says law partners, often in different offices, don’t realize how much an associate has had dumped on his plate. “Sometimes you just have to let [the partners] know and ask them to help prioritize your assignments.”

Bosses can also take steps, including:

• Rethink your behavior. Do you really need to assign work on the weekends or forward an email that doesn’t require immediate action? If waiting until Monday doesn’t make a difference, then wait. If you send an email, let your employee know if he or she has to respond right away. “Companies should have formal policies when it comes to intruding on people’s non-work time. Don’t send things or make calls related to work that don’t need immediate action,” Hochwarter says.

• Publish policies on after-hours coverage. If you expect staff to check email at regular intervals on weekends, make it part of the job description and orientation. Schwartz says he’s clear with his staff: “I expect them to check in a few times after-hours, when they get home or before bed. They have relationships with the clients and know what’s considered urgent. If it’s urgent, deal with it,. If not, deal with it the next day.”

• Practice self control. Entrepreneur Charles Intriago, co-founder of the Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists, is consumed with his newest business. But he has learned to practice restraint. “I know I’ve got to limit the emails I send to staff at night and on the weekend. I’ll compose an email and save it to send at a reasonable hour.”

Today, businesses still hesitate to hire new workers, but they aren’t afraid to stretch their full-time weekday workforce over seven days. For now, your employees may be putting up with the pressing tasks you assign them at all hours, but when the market rebounds, they’re likely to bolt.


September 06, 2011

Labor Day: Why Black Men Aren't Getting Jobs

I was really moved this morning by a story in The Miami Herald about two black men who are struggling to support their families amidst one of the worst job markets in decades.

I learned African American men are hit hard by what's happening in the labor market. According to the July numbers released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Miami-Dade has one of the higher jobless rates in Florida, at 12.4 percent. The number of unemployed African Americans is 17.3 percent, and of those, 41.5 percent are young black males. The article suggests some of the factors contributing to the situation: transportation issues, language, education.

From The Miami Herald:

First, there's Lennox Martin who sells Jamaican DVD’s and clothes and switchblades at the Flea Market. When he came to Miami from Jamaica he had a plan:Work as hard as he could, wherever he could, and bring his whole family to America so they could enjoy the fruits of a better life. Martin has turned to self-employment and works six days a week, selling and hustling and working towards his goal: “Better days are coming,” he said, “You got to stick to the plan you start with.”

Labor day


Yet, it was another man's story that jolted me into the reality of what's happening today. Even with college degrees, people can't get jobs -- particularly in certain professions.

Antwuan Wallace, 38, chose books instead of streets, and developed a different sort of skills, ones he thought would guarantee him a future. And if it wasn’t for the Miami economy, it probably would.

“I do public finance policy and bond work,” Wallace said, “I’ve seen a dramatic drop in my discretionary income. This job market doesn’t support my skill set.”

Wallace got an ROTC scholarship to Hampton University and earned a masters. While he was working on his Phd, his mom became ill and he moved to Miami to take care of her. At job interviews, he was told he was overqualified, and if not that, then not bilingual

He took whatever work he could get. Consulting work for public policy firms and think tanks, writing policy briefs or doing policy analysis. Jobs that are readily available in New York and California but in Miami, not so much. “You certainly have to hustle,” he said. After a year in Miami, he’s decided to leave. With his mother’s health stabilized, he’s moving on. Perhaps the main lesson learned is there are no guarantees.

How frustrating it must be to want to work and be willing to work hard and not be able to find a job! My Labor Day wish is to see the unemployment rate come way down by this time next year and for employers to realize that the high unemployment doesn't mean you can take advantage of your workers.

Happy Labor Day to All!


September 01, 2011

Do morning people have a professional edge?

Morning My husband wakes up perky at the crack of down, bounds into the shower without complaining and is at his office desk by the time most people are rising for the day. He's one of the most productive executives that exist and he's home by a decent hour to have dinner with the family.

So, when I read Laura Vanderkam's article asking "Do morning people have a professional advantage over others?" It made me really think about work habits and our internal clocks. I've concluded that in most lines of business, morning people do have an avantage. It pains me to admit it.

Vanderkam is an expert of sorts on how people use their time. She published a book called168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. In article, she points to research published last year by Harvard Business Review, biologist Christoph Randler. He found that people who were most energetic in the mornings were more likely to identify long-range goals for themselves and feel in charge of making things happen.

While night owls may be more creative, "they're out of sync with the typical corporate schedule," Randler told HBR. "When it comes to business success, morning people hold the important cards."

Ouch! That hurts...I'm one of those night owls. I get tons accomplished between 10 p.m. and midnight. I admit, I might not be conquering those tasks with the same energized vigor that I would at the beginning of the day.

As a longtime business reporter whose interviewed dozens of successful CEOs, I must confess that almost all of them - male or female -  have told me they wake up super early and get tons of work done before anyone else gets to the office.

Accomplishing things in the morning sets off a "cascade of success," Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage told Vanderkam. Even more, by putting important-but-not-urgent activities like exercise, religious practices, or strategic thinking early in the day, you can knock these tasks off your list before your will power is exhausted by boring meetings or the siren song of the office vending machine.

Another reason morning persons have an edge: fewer distractions. Working when others are asleep allows you to focus without interruptions and make critical decisions before others even walk in the door." Even if your colleagues are all early risers, they likely want to use this time to focus, too -- and may feel sheepish putting a conference call on someone's calendar at 6:30 a.m.," said Randeep Rekhi of WineDelight.com.

One of the biggest advantages may be at home: If you start work earlier, you may get done earlier, giving you a chance to spend the early evenings with your kids before they go to bed.

So the question that follows is "Can you become a morning person?"

I know people who have tried. It can be sustained for a short period of time...but it's so hard to make it stick when you're wishing you were back in bed.


Readers, do you agree that morning people have a professional advantage? If you're a night owl, do you see any career advantage in your work schedule?