The Enliven Project Blog


I love when life gives me moments that affirm I am on the right path. When the universe gives me a wink and a nod. When I was a senior in high school, I was fortunate enough to be in the position of deciding between two great schools: Brown and Columbia. I had also gotten into Cal-Berkeley but wisely decided, with the strong encouragement of my parents, that it was too far away even though the pull of the west coast was very strong - and still is. Both schools had pre-decision days for accepted students where you could stay over, meet students, attend class, and generally get a feel for the place. While at Brown, I met this guy with crazy paint splattered pants, long hair, and clear truthful eyes. We hit it off right away and spent the day tooling around campus, drinking copious amounts of coffee, and chatting. It turned out that he was from California, and told me that Brown was the “Berkeley of the east coast.” The next day, I left for Columbia for the same kind of orientation. I walked into the welcome session, and lo and behold, my fancy pants buddy. It turned out he was making the same choice as I was. He seemed like just the kind of person I’d want to meet at college - smart, creative, and interesting. Fast forward three months later, my parents and I packed up the car and were driving to Brown for freshman orientation. We stopped at a rest stop on the highway, and as I opened the sliding door of the minivan, someone was getting out of the car next to me. I couldn’t believe it - Mr. [...]

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    Workplace Rules:  Biting and Other No-Nos Workplace Rules:  Biting and Other No-Nos

    Workplace Rules: Biting and Other No-Nos

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Workplace Rules: Biting and Other No-Nos

As is often the case, the basic principles that allow us to have happy and healthy lives don’t change much from the time we are tots to the time we are so-called adults.  One of the things I learned taking care of pre-schoolers is how important consistent and enforced boundaries are to creating an environment where everyone can grow, thrive, and have a good time. For example, biting.  I think we can all agree that biting is a no-no.  It’s not okay to bite other people, even if we are mad or upset.  That being said, toddlers often have a hard time expressing emotions and can get easily frustrated when things don’t go their way, and when that happens, they may use their little teeth in not-so-nice ways.  As such, any good and experienced preschool teacher or daycare provider knows how to prevent and manage biting. First, establish the ground rules: NO BITING. The rules apply to everyone - kids and grown ups - and they apply all the time, even when hungry and tired. Second, introduce ways to do handle frustration other than biting. Like sharing or taking turns. Or using words (which you may need to teach). Third, take responsibility for preventing bites from taking place. After all, it’s not entirely the toddler’s fault if he or she bites. If you know a kid gets frustrated easily, supervise them. Or provide special attention.  If they get cranky when tired or hungry, make sure they get a nap or a snack. A good teacher can read the room and see a bite coming down the pike. Finally, if a bite does take place, handle the situation rapidly and clearly. See #1:  Biting is never [...]

By |October 17th, 2012|Nonprofit Management|Comments Off

The New Vacation

There are so many things are NOT covered in What to Expect When You Are Expecting, and new parents are left to their own devices to figure out. Like how to go on vacation.  Before kids, my husband and I would decide whether we wanted an “adventure” vacation (camping in Alaska, driving the Pacific Coast Highway) or a chill vacation (sunset sails in Cabo, lying on the beach in Aruba). We looked forward to driving around and seeing the sights, trying new restaurants, and enjoying a place we had never visited before. We just returned from a week an a half on the west coast with our 13-month old.  Boy, do we need a vacation after that adventure!  I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything - he started saying hiyee to people, learned the word “gorilla,” and splashed in the ocean for the first time.  But I do wish I had known a few things in advance.  Lucky for you, I jotted them down so I can pass along the wisdom to y’all: It’s about breakfast, not dinner.  First of all, everyone is in a good mood when they first wake up - even if it’s at an ungodly hour. Second, there is ALWAYS caffeine at breakfast, and most babies like some sort of breakfast food - who doesn’t?  And you are kidding yourself if you think you are going to check out the trendy restaurants about town unless your kid likes to sleep through ambient noise in a stroller shoved in a corner near the kitchen.  And please note, not every restaurant is baby friendly, so appreciate the ones that are!  We went to one place that didn’t have high chairs.  Holding your squirmy [...]

Stuck in the Middle

 I’ve been told that, as a member of Generation X, I’m supposed to translate between Millennials and Baby Boomers in the workplace.  In other words, I often find myself in the middle, mediating, negotiating, and translating. Like most conflicts, it’s mostly about both sides being unable to listen without becoming defensive and buying into stereotypes instead of creating teachable moments.  As a Gen Xer, I find both Millennials and Baby Boomers slightly annoying yet quite charming in different ways.   I know that Baby Boomers can be rigid and hierarchical and Millennials can come across as entitled and lax, but I also appreciate the wisdom and experience of Boomers and the networked competence and insistent and innovative energy of Millennials. And since nobody asked, I thought I would lay out some advice on how to play nice in the workplace.   You don’t know what you don’t know. While its certainly possible for a newly minted college graduate to start a company or nonprofit, he or she would be wise to seek advice and input from people with more experience.  And a professional nearing retirement may not actually have his or her finger on the pulse of all the latest industry trends so it might be smart to run that plan by those who are more junior. Multi-generational organizations  identify blind spots and address them more effectively than those that are less age diverse. There is a place for innovation and for experience. Find a balance. Sometimes the way we have always done things is stale. Other times, it’s a proven method of success. Don’t try to innovate arithmetic. At the same time, there is always room for improvement, and sometimes old ways of doing things actually ARE stale. The Internet is so cool, but remember you need to know how to use it. Information - true and [...]

Enlivening is Easy

Maybe it is the caffeine or the crispness in the air, but I felt particularly alive today. It occurred to me that making the world more alive is pretty darn easy. Here are four things you can do before you even get to work or school: 1. Leave a $1 tip with your cup of coffee. Barista jobs don’t pay very well and if you can afford $4 for a latte, you can spare the extra dollar. They need it more than you. 2. Speak up if someone’s tag is sticking out of their shirt. Or they have a crumb on their face. You will have just saved them that moment of wondering how long it had been there. And they will look sharp for the day. 3. Send a text message to someone you love. Brighten up their day. 4. Smile at strangers. Sure, some will look at you like you are crazy but some will smile back. It’s contagious. Like the Ebola virus.


Trigger Warning:  This post contains a personal story about rape. I was 17 and he was my friend. We were having sex - my first time - and I wanted to stop. I said, Can we stop?  He said, But I didn’t come yet. I said, But it really hurts.  Silence. He was on top. He was bigger. He continued until he was finished. I stared at the ceiling. When he was done, he told me he thought it was great - that I was great. He got dressed. I got dressed. He kissed me goodbye. I was 17 and he was my friend. I wrote this post over and over again, and was conflicted about publishing it.  It feels messy and complicated even 15 years later.   I invited him over to my house with the intention of having sex.  I invited him up to my room, put on some music, and happily made out with him.   We got undressed together. He asked if we could have sex and I said yes. But in that one moment when I asked to stop, it all changed.  In that one moment, it went from two teenagers messing around to one person deliberately hurting another person.  What happened to me hurt me in that moment - physically, emotionally, and mentally.  The physical hurt was brief but the emotional and mental damage lasted for many years after that. In the end, was it bad sex or rape? For years, I thought it was just sex - not even bad sex.  I thought that once I said yes, it meant yes to everything and everything was defined on the other person’s terms. It didn’t matter if it hurt me or I didn’t want to do it. I thought there was no [...]

By |September 11th, 2012|All Posts, Sexual Violence|Comments Off
  • Birthday
    Your Birth Story Your Birth Story

    Your Birth Story

Your Birth Story

Note:  After giving birth, I learned about the power and ritual in sharing a birth story.  Each birth story is the unique and perfect experience of how a child and a parent come together for the first time.  Families are created and expanded in so many ways, and this is just my story. You were due on August 18th, and August 18th came and went.  I was getting pretty uncomfortable towards the end of the pregnancy, mostly because I was unbearably itchy all over my entire body. Nothing that I tried would relieve the itch - benadryl, lotion, oatmeal baths - nothing.  The only thing that seemed to help was ice.  Sometimes, I would wake up at 6am and plunge my feet in ice water to get just a moment of relief! Marc and I tried all the tricks in the book to get labor going.  We took a 1.5 hour walk around the neighborhood.  We played indoor, glow-in-the-dark mini-golf.  I ate a lot of spicy food - at almost every meal - which was a big deal because I had crazy heartburn!  I ate black licorice, pineapple, and anything else I read about on the internet that I thought might start labor. On Monday, August 22, we went to see Leila Forman, our amazing midwife at Mount Auburn, and she decided she would sweep my membranes to see if we could get labor going.  She also suggested I take Blue Cohosh, a homeopathic herb that induces labor.  I went home that day and had irregular, but not painful, contractions for the rest of the day and through the night. On Tuesday, August 23, I woke up (after a fitful night of sleep) and was [...]

Charismatic Wizards

The world has enough super stars. What we need is more ordinary people who find meaning and value in all types of roles.  We can’t all be cast as the lead in the play of life.  Even if we were, a lead without a cast looks strange and alone on stage. Without stagehands, tech, writers, and ticket sellers, we would all be waiting in the dark in an empty room with nothing to say.  Maybe I feel this way because of my semi-Hindu upbringing, but a story with a single lead is also a worn-out concept.  Why can’t life be more like the Ramayana - a story with many leads, many heroes, many plot lines, and many characters - instead of a hero saving us all from ourselves? Time and time again, young, idealistic folks tell me they want to change the world. Yet the only pathway they see is to start their own organization addressing small pieces of the puzzle or starting from scratch with a single idea that will “change everything.”  This is not to say that there isn’t value in innovation, but entrepreneurship comes with risks. The reality is not as glamorous as the idea. Running an organization means you are responsible for people and systems, not just ideas.  And innovation is not just about the idea - it’s about the execution of the idea, which is a combination of timing, luck, planning, and hard work. In my experience, the non-profit sector - and the individuals committed to social change - place too much emphasis on the visionary leader at the expense of the large teams and support systems those leaders need to be effective.  Charismatic leaders bring vision, energy, excitement to an [...]

Managing Up, Down, and Sideways

One of the most important things you can learn as a professional - and as a human - is to see the world through other people’s eyes.  One could argue that empathy is an innate skill, but I think that there are aspects of empathy - and how to act on empathy inside of organizations - that are teachable.  That’s why, twice a year, I lead a workshop for our interns on managing up, down, and sideways.  It’s one of my favorite workshops to lead, and here are the principles we cover: If you want to change the world, you can start wherever you are. You work on a team.  The team contributes to an organization.  The organization impacts an issue.  What you do in your position - no matter how junior it is - impacts the team, the organization, and the issue your organization cares about. Understand your SELF first. You have a personal brand.  If you aren’t managing it, someone else is.  All personal brands are different, and all personal brands are valuable.  A creative, good-humored, team player and a responsible, results-oriented, problem solver are totally different, but both have an important contribution to make.  Think of three words that describe you.  Ask three peers to provide three words to describe you.  See if they line up.  If they do, you have landed on your personal brand. Make your boss’ life better - cure cancer. Ok, maybe you won’t cure cancer, but you will have a better working relationship, more chances to advance professionally, and you will improve the organization.  The first step to making your boss’ life better is to understand what her priorities are, why they are her priorities, and what [...]

  • Impact of Violence - 1
    Something to ask yourself Something to ask yourself

    Something to ask yourself

Something to ask yourself

By |July 31st, 2012|Sexual Violence|Comments Off