Before You Insult That Quirky Kid in Your Class …

That odd-ball kid, the one who lives in their own dreamworld, dresses like a Hobby Lobby explosion, and just makes you a bit uncomfortable with their odd quirks or bizarre comments that seem to have nothing to do with what you are teaching? The one who you think disrupts your class on purpose just for the attention? The one who even the other kids in class treat like a pariah? Before you decide you’re helping the kid out with a dose of honest truth or harsh reality so they can get their act together before it’s too late, watch this. You may just be a bully with a teaching certificate.

September 11: What Do You Remember?

When I was a little girl, my grandmother’s generation commemorated the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor with somber ceremonies. I can still see her and her older friends sitting around her kitchen table, each recalling in vivid detail where they were when the news arrived about the surprise attack which launched their generation into war.

Because I had not witnessed that day or lived through the years of war and rebuilding that followed, I couldn’t understand their need to drag up the past year after year. It seemed odd, this need to feed on these old memories instead of letting the past stay in the past.

I have now become my grandmother’s generation.

As September 11 approaches, I find that a wash of memories and emotions have settled on me once again. Not vague, fuzzy memories but moments of intense clarity, where even the smells and sounds of that day are as clear as if it were happening today.

I didn’t experience 9/11 as a New Yorker watching iconic landmark in my city burn. I didn’t experience that day as a resident of our nation’s capitol, hearing sirens for hours as rescuers battled to save the lives of those within the Pentagon. I didn’t know a single brave passenger on the plane which plummeted into an empty Pennsylvania field, saving countless other lives at the cost of their own on. I wasn’t stranded in an airport or on a train as our nation’s transportation system ground to a halt. I didn’t even have any close relatives who were called into immediate action to respond to the rescue efforts or the increased security on that day.

In many ways, nothing in my life was immediately affected by the events that unfolded on 9/11. I was a freelance writer and stay-at-home mother with a one year old at home and two older children in elementary school. For much of the morning, I wasn’t even aware of the terrible tragedies playing out far from our quite neighborhood. In reality, the only immediate concrete effect I experienced on 9/11 was having to pass through a hastily erected security barrier manned by armed National Guardsmen to pick up my children from their school after it was closed due to its proximity to a flight control tower.

But I distinctly recall the moment I heard about the first plane crashing in the heart of New York City. In that moment, uncertainty and fear crept in. I spent the day glued to the radio and watching live coverage. Insecurity crept in. I saw men and women falling to their death and black plumes of smoke billowing from gaping holes in glass and steel buildings. Sorrow flooded in.

But then something happened.

Hope and courage arose, not only for me, but as a nation. We were inspired by the hordes of selfless, fearless firemen, policemen and citizens streaming back inside burning buildings to save others. We were sobered and moved with deep respect for the ultimate sacrifice that so many paid for their courage, and it reminded us that there were still many among us who were driven by the right motives, who cared about their fellow man, who loved their country and their way of life enough to give their own in protecting it for others.

I well remember the mood of our nation shifting. We got angry. We refused to live in fear or to allow that day to define us as Americans. We determined as a nation that we would not forget or fail to honor the unexpected sacrifices of those who perished.

While there is plenty of debate about the positive and negative changes that resulted in our nation from 9/11, I am not interested in dredging up those arguments today.

As September 11 approaches, I want to focus on the courage, selflessness, fearlessness, and compassion I witnessed within so many in our nation. I want to remember the pain and heartache that is ever present in those who lost a loved one or were injured. I want to honor the lives that were cut short.

My youngest, that seven month old baby I held in my arms as I cried while watching the footage on the news, he is in high school now. For him, 9/11 is a fact in history. He has no memory of that day, and because of it, he wonders why I want to talk about where I was when I heard the news. It’s okay that he doesn’t understand. I hope our nation remains at peace so that he never has to understand. I hope he never has a day that changes everything for him as a citizen of our country.

I now understand my grandmother’s need to talk about the day Pearl Harbor was bombed. I understand her gathering with her friends because of their shared experiences on that day. I understand the need to remember it all just one more time.

I understand, because after 9-11, I have become my grandmother’s generation.

Tilting at IEP Windmills


“The IEP allows assignments to be emailed. This wasn’t an assignment but a classroom expectation.”

This, according to my son, was the actual explanation provided to him as the reason his teacher refused to accept an assignment by email.

This, in spite of his IEP which clearly stipulates that he is allowed to turn in work by email and to use a laptop in class.

This, despite his arguments with her about his IEP – which led to a meeting with a social worker over disrupting the class – because he should just roll over and accept an F that is in violation of his IEP.

Despite all of his arguments and his efforts to advocate for the IEP that is supposed to provide him with a more even playing field, she still chose to give him an F if his assignment was not printed out. Somehow in her world, her “classroom expectations” supersede a federally mandated plan dictating my son’s individualized education accommodations.

Because my son is gifted and quite articulate, teachers so often assume that he should just ‘do it’, never mind that he has dyslexia, dysgraphia, a memory processing disorder, and a school file full of reports going back to third grade that document his need for the accommodations listed in his IEP.

After fighting similar battles for the past fifteen years, sometimes I wonder if I have it in me to deal with this kind of nonsense another day.

And then I remember that my son is facing it all day, every day.

And I realize it isn’t about how weary I am of the constant battle with his teachers and the school.

It is about my son.

And that helps me find the energy to once again tilt at windmills and help him succeed despite it seeming like such an impossibility on days like today.

When Women are the Problem for Women in Tech

This past week, I read Meg Nordmann‘s post Why ALL Women in Tech are Women-In-Tech. She writes, “A fellow female (who is a very talented software engineer) told me to my face today that I am “NOT a woman in tech.” … Her reasoning: I was a marketer.” If you haven’t yet read her post, it’s definitely worth the read.

It is discouraging to know women are still facing this kind of blatant bias, but what I find reprehensible is when it is another woman who is the problem. I do not understand women who don’t help lift up other women, and I really don’t understand women who actively work to keep other women down. This kind of pettiness is demoralizing and cannot be tolerated.

Madeline Albright once said that there is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women.


But that seems like a very long time to wait to fix the problem.

If you would rather not wait that long to address bias you may be facing, here are five methods to address the problem that you can try right now.

Lead by Example

If you don’t like how it feels to be on the receiving end of another woman’s bias about your right to call yourself a Woman in Tech, lead by example what you’d like to see in others. Treat other women with the dignity, respect, and kindness you’d like to receive. When you realize a woman may be struggling with feelings of inadequacy, boost her courage. Invite her to a tech gathering and introduce her to your peers. In doing so, you will help her build a broader network of support that can give her the courage to push forward and embrace her career in tech. Become a portal for others to enter by being a woman who makes room for other women to feel welcome within the tech industry.

Educate with Facts

When a woman’s concern over maintaining the integrity of her field of study leads to bias towards others in fields she may consider beneath her own, appealing to her emotions will rarely result in the desired outcome. Instead, try using facts to dispel her misconceptions. Share articles or reports that detail the variety of jobs that now require technical training and skills. Provide examples of your own required technical training or skills. Or point out historical, cultural or global biases which would have prevented her own entry into her chosen field. Use facts to convince her that maintaining the integrity of her own field of study is not the same as adhering to a narrow set of biases which result in the unnecessary exclusion of others.

Draw Clear Boundaries

We’ve likely all encountered the woman who believes that everyone else has a right to her opinion – and attempts to politely disengage or change the subject are useless. If she cannot or will not respond to your cues of discomfort, you may need to be straightforward. Draw clear boundaries about what is not acceptable. If she is choosing to violate your boundaries and is unaware or unapologetic for the hurtful nature of her words, responding with the same type of direct communication will clarify the boundaries that must be respected if she wants to talk with you.

Refuse to Engage

If our difficulties are the result of someone else thriving on the drama of controversy, we may find it impossible to resolve the issue. If this is the case for you, sometimes your only option is refusing to participate in her drama. By choosing to avoid interactions when possible, you limit her negative effect on you. And while the advice to not participate in the controversy is easy to give, it isn’t easy to do. When we are aware that someone else is saying things that are untrue and demeaning, our first reaction is to defend our reputation. But when we choose to engage, it rarely results in a better reputation. Refusing to engage won’t always help you avoid the pain of the situation, but it will allow you to rise above the controversy and maintain your integrity. And, with any luck, without your fuel to feed her fire, she’ll move on to someone new.

Call Her Out

Sometimes bias isn’t loud or direct but a whisper campaign of continual innuendos, digs, insults, backhanded comments. Women who may understand on some level their bias towards you might not be well-received by others may behave outwardly as if she is supportive while continuing to undermine by excluding you from activities or projects, making jokes about your weaknesses, or failing to acknowledge your successes publicly or privately. When bias takes on a subversive nature, it is often quite effective to call her out in front of others. Yes, it makes for some very awkward, uncomfortable moments when you refuse to ignore her digs but instead ask her point-blank about her intent or meaning. The good news is that it usually only takes once or twice to effectively shut down the problem.

Whether a woman participates in tech as an engineer, a developer, a marketer, or in some other capacity, there is room enough for all of us. It is a difficult industry that is rapidly changing, and we have no business making things even more difficult on each other.

Advice for Women Entrepeneurs

Since founding APPCityLife six years ago, I’ve often vacillated between guilt and gratitude – guilt over not being a stay-at-home mom anymore and gratitude for the many opportunities for growth. I’ve made peace (mostly) with the trade-offs, knowing that there is no real balance in life for anyone. Whatever we choose as our path in life, we lose out on something else – and if we spend our time regretting what couldn’t happen, we completely miss the value of what is right in front of us.

I think accepting this truth is such a big challenge for women who feel a deep sense of responsibility to their family but who also want to launch their own business or grow it to the next level. The guilt of what we can no longer give to our family can become a burden that prevents the very success we’re seeking. But a far more insidious barrier to success comes when we give ourselves permission to use obligations to family as an escape hatch when things get scary or hard.

If I had one piece of advice to give to other women entrepreneurs, it would be this: Don’t ever devalue your role as a mother, daughter, or anything else, by using it as the scapegoat for your lack of performance as an entrepreneur.


I recently attended a meeting where a brilliant young woman entrepreneur was called out for her lack of preparation. The accusations were pointed, public and, frankly, over the top. I learned afterwards from several in attendance that the lack of preparation on her part (as well as several others who weren’t so publicly challenged) had far more to do with miscommunication of expectations from the person who had gotten angry with her. And had she spoken directly to that failure to clearly set goals and expectations, she would have established herself as the leader that I know she is. But when she chose to use family obligations as an escape hatch to avoid the heat instead of taking it on directly, she devalued her role as a mother and her credibility as a leader. She’s a tough, driven entrepreneur, and I have no doubt that her experience in that meeting will help her make the more difficult decision the next time she faces a similar challenge.

Another friend of mine recently expressed how guilty she felt every time she had to tell her children no when they asked to do something when she was working on her business. But here’s the thing – unless our children are newborns, they don’t need our constant attention and time. In fact, it can stifle their ability to develop a sense of independence and self-reliance. And if a woman is going to take the step of becoming an entrepreneur and sacrifice some of her time with family to build a business, she owes it to herself and her family to take it seriously enough to make it worth the sacrifice. When we play at entrepreneurship, we not only severely reduce our chances of success, we cheat ourselves and our family out of our time without anything to show for the sacrifice. When we make the more difficult decision to believe that what we are building is important and deserves our full effort, we can feel better about the time we spend on our business – and about the time we dedicate to our family.

It is so tempting to tap into that calling of “family obligations” as our escape hatch. After all, who is going to call us out for doing such a noble thing as sacrificing the time we need to spend on our company to fulfill some family obligation? It’s easy to use as our excuse to step back from the edge of growth right before a breakthrough.

When we don’t hide behind our personal obligations and actually face our fears, the growth that happens is exhilarating. And whether we succeed or fail, we learn something about ourselves – that we can make decisions as a leader and still be okay with our relationships with those around us. In fact, those varying parts of our lives can co-exist far easier when we know we aren’t using one as an excuse to avoid the other. Entrepreneurship for women isn’t an either/or proposition. It’s about finding what works and being honest with ourselves about the journey so that we can embrace the changes and the growth along the way.

Forget Snakes on a Plane – Pets on a Plane are Nightmare Enough


I’m pretty sure I qualify for Seasoned Traveler status – maybe not the frequent flier miles that some business travelers rack up, but I’ve rarely gone longer than six weeks in the past two years with a flight somewhere. As a frequent traveler, I’ve come to appreciate the challenges that flight crews face and try my best to be respectful of the rules when flying so that I don’t add to their hassles or to those of other travelers. I’ve watched one passenger hauled off of a flight – literally; he was dragged off after refusing to leave on his own. I’ve witnessed abusive, rude passengers who were treated with far more dignity and respect by the flight crew than was merited, and I have seen my share of in-flight emergencies and dramas where passengers and crew swiftly and selflessly came to the aid of someone needing assistance.

So when I was asked to move seats from a third-row, upgraded seat on my flight home last night from New York City so that a mother and son could sit together, I got up and moved – despite my new seat being in the front row that would require my carry-on to be stored due to no under-seat storage. As a mother, I knew I would want someone else to do the same for me, so I moved without complaint.

What I didn’t realize is that I’d been re-seated next to a couple with a pet in transit.

To be clear, I am a pet owner, and I love our dog, so this isn’t about not liking dogs or even being allergic to pets  – although I think both are completely reasonable objections that should be considered valid by the airline industry. If we can be asked to not eat peanuts on a flight when someone aboard has an allergy, why is it ok to allow pet dander to float about the cabin – and suggest that the person with the allergy be reseated or rebooked – or carry a life-saving epi-pen instead of requiring the owner with the pet to re-book?

But, as I said, my complaint isn’t about either of those things. And this isn’t about service dogs, whose owners are usually quite careful to prevent their pets from socializing with others while the animal is working. Besides, the ADA Act  specifically allows service animals on board, so it really isn’t even a question.

CMgCgNvUAAAhdWr.jpg-largeWhat finally provoked me into writing this piece is my frustration with the airline staff who allowed passengers to sit next to me in the front row with their pet in complete violation of their own company’s policy – which clearly states that passengers with pets cannot be seated in rows without storage under the seat. Not only were these passengers seated in the front row, they were allowed to keep their pet carrier on their lap during takeoff and, once the seatbelt signs were turned off, they were allowed to store large duffle bags in the walkway blocking my exit from my own row. And this doesn’t even begin to cover my annoyance that these passengers were not required to keep their beloved pooch in its carrier during the flight. Instead of addressing any of these issues, the attendants happily chatted about how darling the dog was and how wonderful it was to have a pet.

No, I didn’t complain, so this isn’t about flight attendants who blatantly disregarded the complaints of a passenger. I honestly wasn’t sure what the rules were regarding pets on planes, so I tolerated it. But after a little research today, I have learned what the flight attendants should have already known – that the furry passenger who shared his dog breath with me for three long hours should have never been in that row at all.

I do realize I am tilting at windmills here, as there is no way the airline industry is going to give up the very lucrative fees charged to transport pets. And it does explain why peanuts will be kept off a flight (no money lost) but pet dander will not. Most airlines state they are happy to re-book any passenger who complains about boarding a flight with a pet on it, but, seriously, who among us can afford another day stuck in a hotel somewhere or for our schedule to be further disrupted just to board a different flight which is still not guaranteed to be pet-free? I certainly don’t have a solution, but I do know that I shouldn’t have been trapped next the furry traveling companion who made last night’s flight one I won’t soon forget.