Power Comes in Numbers

Last week I attended the annual conference for NGLCC, the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. For the past 3 years I have attended and walked away each time more empowered to do the work of opening doors for opportunity and closing down discrimination toward the LGBT population of which I am a proud member.

Being in the space of like minded people who have NO frame of reference of hate or looking down their nose at the LGBT community is incredible. We do so much more good together and we collaborate in a way that only forwards each other’s businesses. I find this venue to be more collaborative than any of the women focused events I attend. Unfortunately, I still see women clawing at each other to get business. Fortunately, I have 2 amazing women owned teaming partners who I have built an incredible relationship with and we work together on contracts. Outside of these 2 amazing women, most of the other female staff augmentation owners I come across approach me in a way to get versus give.

In the LGBT business space, so many of us are sharing information and looking at how to add value to each other rather than leaving any of us behind. We are probably so used to being left behind or ignored that being part of an organization where sharing and giving is easy has us all expand both professionally and personally. This makes it easy to give. Remember, giving begets others to give when in a healthy relationship.

I am honored to be part of the NGLCC family and to give to my colleagues. The wisdom that I receive in return is priceless and has brought much enrichment to AdNet as well as to myself personally. Each time I attend an NGLCC event I walk away with a deeper commitment to the cause of removing discrimination in the LGBT community. I say NO MORE and if you want to have a spirited conversation on the topic, bring it on!!! Just know that I will keep coming at you to remove your blinders of ignorance.

Thank you to my LGBT business family and to NGLCC for paving the way towards equality in business. We are a very courageous group of people and I am proud everyday!!!

The Good Humor Truck

Remember that feeling when The Good Humor Truck drove into our neighborhoods when we were kids? It’s almost as though we had super human hearing that the song was heard well into the distance. Some of us would run up the street and wait to see when the truck would turn down our street. We’d run, screaming with such joy as the driver would slowly pull to the side of the street. He was always so careful, so happy to help us and sometimes threw in an extra scoop. That was pure bliss as a kid.

We all begged our parents for spare change and ran outside with smiles on our faces eagerly waiting our turn in line. I can remember such excitement when I got to the window. I would be hanging onto the ledge asking for my red-white-blue Popsicle and paying Mr. Good Humor with lots of change. Sometimes I would save my pennies and nickels so my mom wouldn’t need to give me anything. I wanted to show her that I knew how to save money and deep down I figured out that if I already had the money in my pocket, I could save time having to run home first and then I could be first in line. Isn’t it funny the little things that we learned as we grew up?

Standing in the Good Humor line was being part of something really special for a little kid. It taught me to plan, to save money, to listen for the cues when he was turning the corner. This memory came up for me as I saw some pictures on Facebook with a Good Humor truck coming to a little boy’s birthday party. It brought smiles to my face.

Then I thought about the neighborhoods where an ice cream truck just won’t drive into because of its location. What about the families who can’t afford to buy their kids an ice cream? It’s even more real in today’s world then it was 50 years ago. I sometimes think about renting out a truck and driving into an Inner City community and giving out the ice cream for free. Can you even imagine the joy on a little kids face to be handed a big Popsicle? That is a joyful thought and it is so inclusive. Isn’t that what life should be about…………..there’s plenty for everyone and everyone is welcomed?? That’s the kind of world I want to live in.

While that is not really as it is today, we can make it that way everywhere we go. We can share with others who have less than we do, we can give of our time to help those in need, we can pay it forward and buy someone a treat when they least expect it. Most importantly, we can include everyone. The feeling of being left out is devastating at any age. So when you are thinking about leaving someone out, or not extending an invitation, you might want to check in with yourself on how would that feels if you were told that The Good Humor Man wasn’t allowed to give you a Popsicle. I bet we all would choose differently.

Siblings and Sunshine

I had the wonderful experience of spending a few days at the Jersey Shore with my siblings and their families last week. The last time we were all together at the shore was in 1985; wow that’s 30 years ago!!! It was great to be together at this stage of our lives and to see all the babies grown up carrying their own babies. The sun shined brightly in the sky as well as in my heart.

As I enjoyed seeing everyone, I was reminded how our family has changed over the years with the loss of my 2 older brothers as well as my 91 year old mom chose to stay home as the trip was too much for her. In some ways it was a bittersweet trip yet in spite of missing the physical presence of loved ones, their spirits definitely showed up numerous times. As I recognized the subtle presence of my brothers, I felt a sense of peace and comfort. There was no need for sadness but gratitude that they truly were with us in another form.

I feel very fortunate to have come from a close knit family. We are loyal to each other to a fault. While we don’t always agree on things, there is an unconditional love that stays present no matter what. In having 2 of us leave our earthly presence (see, sometimes it’s hard for me to use the “d” word) there is a greater appreciation and patience for each other now that was not always present 5 years ago. When I hear others share disturbing stories of their sibling relationships, I am grateful that I am the youngest of a line of a really fabulous sister and brother(s). They are really, really good people who give from their hearts, sometimes to a fault and don’t ask for anything in return. They value others hard work and are in the trenches getting things done with their teams. Nothing is above them to take on. I learned from the best of the best!!

I also grew up watching them chose spouses who complimented their personalities and were equally as giving and kind as them. As parents, they are incredible givers and role models. The greatest gift is when your“in-law” feels like your brother and sister as well. So our family really comprises of 5 girls and 4 boys, not just the original 5 and that is magical. And so I followed their examples and chose an amazing spouse & soul mate.

While I would like to tell you to please reconnect with your sibling(s) if you have not been in contact with them because of a fall out, I’ll leave that choice up to you to decide. Sometimes the distance is the healthiest choice and sometimes finding a way to overcome a disagreement might open up a whole new joyful relationship. Again, we are the only ones who know our wounds. I will always be the youngest of 5 not matter where any of us are on the planet or the universe. Now, I see my brother’s presence in my remaining sister and brother as well as myself and that tells me that we are all still very much connected no matter where life takes our journey. So three cheers to my sister and 3 brothers!!! You are loved and cherished, shining deeply within my heart, forever!!

Peace Begins with Me

The news over the past few weeks has given us much to digest with the removal of the Confederate Flag from the South Carolina capitol building, discriminating comments targeting Serena Williams much deserved Wimbledon victory, the Iran nuclear arms deal, more evidence revealed on Bill Cosby’s rape accusations, Baltimore’s spike in crime and on and on and on.

I find myself and my staff looking at different outreach efforts in Baltimore City to help youth and businesses most impacted by the Baltimore riots. Yesterday, I was at an SBA mentoring meeting and when I came out of the building, I stood across the street staring up at the building for a few minutes. I was thinking, are our efforts to help futile when politicians are more concerned with election or reelection than really listening to the people’s needs and getting their hands dirty to fix the problems in the city I call home?

I want peace, like we all do. Often times, the constant flow of information is overwhelming to the point where it’s easy to say “why bother or who cares”. It’s an easy short term choice yet I know in my heart that every little bit helps. There was a time when I did not fully understand the grassroots efforts or that category as activists. As I have matured, I’m proud to call myself an activist because I’m passionate about seeing that fairness goes across the board for every human being. Now I speak out more than ever and support efforts that are passionate to my soul.

This week I was in a meeting where there was discussion about the chaos surrounding all of us. In that moment something came over me. The idea that peace that I want to see really does start in my own heart and soul. When I feel most challenged for whatever reason I need to stay very present by actively blocking out negative influential noise or commentary. It’s important to distance myself from people who are committed to complaining without any intention in identifying solutions. Armchair quarterbacks are the subject-matter experts of negativity.

So for today I am disconnecting from the chaos around me while I am working at staying in a compassionate place. Where I might feel like snarling at a nosey neighbor or a crazy client, I’m working on making my choice based on fact, not my feelings, and letting go of someone else’s chaotic behavior. It’s hard at times, yet it’s these times that have me practice peace because when it starts with me, it trickles into the universe as a happy face.

Champions!

This weekend we were wowed by the USA Women’s Soccer victory over Japan and we continue to see Serena Williams making an amazing comeback in her tennis career. Carli Lloyd, at 32, led the American Women’s Soccer team to an amazing 5-2 victory. Abby Wambach, who is 35, shared a tender celebratory kiss with her wife which has been playing over and over again around the world as a tribute of the SCOTUS ruling legalizing same sex marriage across the United States. Serena Williams, 33, and Venus Williams, 35, displayed an amazing game of tennis while being the consummate sisters in awe of each other talents.

These women are clearly still champions in sports where youth wins. Hey, don’t count us out yet!! At 53, I feel like I am in my prime in my career, more confident and clear than I have been in 30 years. Many of my female peers in business feel the same way. We have used our experience to leverage success. Also, we have used our influence to speak out for what needs to be changed and learned how to remove toxicity from our workplaces. I love my career more than ever because I am stepping through doors that the female leaders before me have opened and I’m opening more doors for the youth behind me. That is really what keeps me going. And you know, business is a sport and sport is a business.

So what makes us all champions? We are putting ourselves out there, we are practicing our respective crafts every day, we are leading the charge to break records and ceilings. And we are putting our hearts and souls into what we touch. Champions are not just on TV or in the newspapers; champions are everyday people who take risks, save lives, make the world a little better each day. And we are never too old to be a champion of humanity.

I am always in awe hearing stories of inspirational women who have rocked the world with their magic yet it’s the folks I rub shoulders with every single day that teach me so much. When I focus on making my corner of the world better, that makes a difference to others. Anyone can be a champion simply by whom they “be” each day. Saying hello to one more stranger, letting the next car go ahead in traffic, shifting a bad attitude in the moment, carrying a bag for a senior citizen; it makes a difference. How does it make you a champion? Well, champions in sports will tell you that when they push themselves to hit one more ball, run a second faster, sit on the bench to let a rookie play, it makes them and their team stronger. As everyday folk, if we extend kindness a little more, help someone in need one more time we are practicing humanity. When humanity works, sports and business and everything thrives.

So as we watch this week’s Wimbledon finals and upcoming baseball All-Star game remember, we are all champions and those of us who have been playing the game of life longer than others, “don’t count us out yet”. The wealth of experience we have creates the champions of tomorrow.