Family

Title IX – more than I realized

40 years ago today, Title IX went into effect – basically saying that no one can be excluded or denied benefits or discriminated against on the basis of sex. I always just thought Title IX meant girls can play sports. I realize now that it has meant much more to my life than just that.

As a Smithie, I think my senses are naturally heightened about discrimination. I am humbly indebted to the amazing women before me who were such pioneers in paving the way to the life I have been able to lead. For one, it opened up doors in technology.

I was a young CIO – Chief Information Officer – which meant I was responsible for all the technology for our 7 offices across the country, during the dawning of the Internet. Everything was changing and I was in the middle of some incredible projects.

I was the only woman officer of the company. I also was the first pregnant officer – which did not go smoothly – to put it mildly. I actually was shocked at how I was treated, especially since I was somewhat of a golden child there for 7 years. I saw first-hand what other women had talked about – but I never thought it would happen to me.

I ended up leaving the company but my eyes were opened. There is still work to be done.

You may have read some of my recent posts about my introduction to the world of coaching. I coached my daughter’s softball team. It reminded me when I was twelve – shortly after Title IX had passed – that they started a girls softball league for us – for ages 10-12. I got to play for one year. There was no league for 13-year-olds.

There were SO many girls who still wanted to play – now that we all had gotten a taste of being on a team.

We had a big meeting in the church basement. I remember a turning point in the meeting where they said that we couldn’t go forward with a league unless someone would step up and be the President.

I looked up at my mother with a hopeful (begging) look.

She stepped up. We started a league.

I still run into people today who say, “The reason we have a girls league is because of Erin Moran’s big blue eyes!”

That year we went to the State Finals! We didn’t even have uniforms – we had to borrow the boys’ uniforms (who had been kicked out of the playoffs early on!) It was an amazing experience.

I was disappointed that there were only 2 women coaches in all 5 of the town softball leagues this year. One of my youngest players gives me hope though. One night when I was short-handed, her mother had said to me,”My husband was thinking of coaching but can’t get to the games by 6 o’clock.”

To which her daughter looked up to her with big blue eyes and replied, “Well, mom, why don’t YOU coach?”

Go girls go!

Check out the cool ESPN mural of women athletes. I added my girls team – the Disco Pandas – along with my Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk Team and teaching my kids to ski at Park City, Utah. What about you?

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“We don’t play with Barbie dolls…”

We don’t play with Barbie dolls… we just play with bats and balls.
We don’t wear no mini skirts…we just wear our softball shirts.
We don’t paint our nails bright red…we just play softball instead.

–Disco Panda cheer

Tonight, my softball team, The Disco Pandas, is in the playoffs. I am a first-time coach for my daughter’s 3 & 4th grade softball team. It has been an amazing season.

I was floored the first time I heard the above cheer coming from the dugout. It gave me hope that little girls do indeed want to do more than play with dolls. These girls are awesome. They are kind. They cheer each other on. They are brave. They are tough. They want to win.

My philosophy is that everyone gets to play the infield. I didn’t relegate the 3rd graders to Right Field. Anyone who wanted to try pitching, got to pitch. Star infielders who wanted to be catcher (which basically would take them out of the plays) got to catch.

This sometimes raised some eyebrows among the parents – but it’s about the girls. It’s about building confidence.

My personal highlight was when my daughter asked if she could pitch in the middle of the season, just before the start of a game.

She had never pitched. Had never practiced pitching. I wasn’t sure if she could even reach the plate from the pitcher’s mound. But more than any of that, it was so out of character for her. She’s a worrier. She gets nervous trying anything new. Anytime we asked her if she wanted to try something (basketball, piano, softball) she said, “No.” But we just wanted to help her try new things and see what she liked. We signed her up anyway – and she ended up loving them – after some tearful, resistant beginnings.

So seeing her bright eyes and big smile, asking to pitch, made me well-up. I was so proud of her to be finding her confidence.

I had her throw me a few balls from the sidelines and it looked like she would be able to reach and I said, “Wow – you’re doing great. Sure. You can pitch.”

She walked out to the mound, with her head high, full of optimism. I was petrified for her.

She threw a couple balls (way out of the strike zone) and then her first strike. Very cool. Then she struck out the batter. Then another. The third batter got a hit and her team backed her up and made the play. 1-2-3 inning for Miss Lily.

One of life’s great moments.

There are certain moments in your life that stay with you – turning points. I think this was one of those moments for her. Finding the courage to try something new and going for it. I honestly don’t remember if we won that game or not – but I will never forget her running off the mound with a big smile – and a new sense of confidence. Who knows where this moment will help take her in life? I have noticed a new spring in her step.

When these girls started the season, many didn’t know where Left Field was and had to be reminded not to toss their glove up in the air during the game. They have come a long way. We won 4, tied 4, and lost 2 games. (And we have never lost the After Game Relay Race – which we are quite proud of!) More than anything else, these girls have all improved – both as softball players and more importantly, as people.

It’s single elimination for the playoffs – so tonight could be our last game. But it has been a real joy working with these young girls. I am so proud of my Pandas. Wish us luck!

Video – Disco Pandas Go Jump in a Lake (One EXTREMELY hot afternoon, we were playing an away game and after the game we discovered a lake behind the ball field. We let the girls jump in – in their uniforms! Go Disco Pandas!)

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Mom 1. Kim Kardashian 0.

Years ago, my parents bumped into some friends whose daughter was a freshman (or as the undergrads say now, “first year”) at Smith College. I had never heard of Smith. When I found out it was “all girls” (or as I say now, all women) I thought, “No way.”

My parents convinced me to take a look. (My father was motivated by the amount of money they gave in scholarships.) We arranged for a weekend visit and I reluctantly agreed. I’ll just do this and get them off my back. I would NEVER go to an “all girls” school.

I loved it.

I walked into the art building, the art studios, the museum and I was hooked. This place was magnificent. I had an unbelievable weekend. There were parties and fun and it was nothing like I had imagined. The young women were fabulous. Nice. Welcoming. Smart. Funny. And there were tons of guys on campus. Seems the whole “all girls” thing is actually a big draw!

Smith was a life changing experience for me. As much as I have loved Smith, it is really starting to hit me – now that I have my own daughter – how lucky I was to have the unique privilege of an “all women’s” education. You truly learn that women can do anything – and you are inspired to make it happen; to live to your potential; to be your best.

In this age of Kim Kardashian, The Jersey Shore and “16 and Pregnant”, it is hard to know what is in the mind of young girls about what is important in life. Shopping, yelling (and getting bleeped) at each other and treating people unkindly seemingly gets you million-dollar reality TV deals.

I saw a survey conducted of hundreds of middle-school students where:

    - Given a choice of becoming the CEO of a major corporation, the president of Yale or Harvard, a Navy SEAL, a U.S. senator or “the personal assistant to a very famous singer or movie star,” almost half of the girls chose the assistant role.
    - When asked who they would most like to have dinner with: Jesus Christ, Albert Einstein, Shaquille O’Neal, Jennifer Lopez, 50 Cent, Paris Hilton or President Bush. Lopez came in first place; Jesus took second.
    - When given an option to become stronger, smarter, famous or beautiful, the majority of girls chose fame over intelligence.

Yes, from the outside looking in, being rich, famous and beautiful are seemingly fabulous and what every little girl wants to be. (Although Marilyn Monroe, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Princess Di might not agree.) What are we teaching our daughters about what to aspire to and what is important in life? Being famous, or at least being near someone famous, is having it all?

So it was especially heartwarming for me yesterday to get an optimistic glimpse from my daughter (who is no stranger to The Kardashians) who made me a card about “Reasons why mom is awesome”:

  • Never gives up
  • Can do anything
  • Very “motivative”
  • Great singer
  • Always happy
  • Works hard
  • Great writer
  • Always there for you
  • Is so nice
  • Great person
  • Smart
  • The Best Mom Ever

  • Not one mention of my shoe collection. Mom 1. Kim Kardashian 0. And Ms. K., tell your assistant to call me. We need to talk!

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    Thank you Delta and Publix

    It’s easy to complain. To point out what’s bad about something. What’s not working. What could be better – much better – if you ruled the world.

    Unfortunately, the inverse is rarely true. When you run across incredible service, do you also take the time to speak up? Do you go out of your way to let the head of the company know when things go great? Are beyond expectations? When you witness a clerk who not only keeps her cool in the midst of retail chaos but works amazingly fast and efficiently – and with a big smile, do you tell her boss? Do you at least tell her?

    I was thinking about this today as I remembered last year at this time.

    As I remember it, we got a few FEET of snow last Christmas and the entire Eastern seaboard was snowed in. Revisionist history perhaps but I know this much is true – our flights from Boston to Park City were cancelled. Not postponed or delayed. Cancelled. (Don’t talk to me about flying from snow to snow – that’s for another day.)

    Ten of us (5 adults and 5 kids) had been looking forward to this trip for months to spend it with my brother and his fabulous family. And not only was the flight cancelled – we could not get new tickets for a week. In other words, goodbye Christmas – goodbye vacation. We were crushed.

    You couldn’t get through to the airlines on phones. On email. Via the website. At the winding, non-moving lines at the airport itself. Things looked grim.

    I wasn’t ready to give up.

    This trip was just what my family needed. The holidays are always tough after someone dies and my husband and I had both lost our fathers. Dammit – somehow I was going to get us (all 10 of us!) on a plane.

    I started “tweeting.” Using keywords, DELTA and CANCELLED FLIGHTS – and perhaps a few other “key words” about the situation.

    I connected with a customer service rep from Delta. Miraculously after about 8 HOURS of back and forths, I tweeted my way into 10 new tickets.

    In my haste to get us all to the airport, I neglected to let anyone at Delta know about my good experience. (I just checked old tweets and couldn’t find the Rep’s name.) I wished I had let someone know.

    A few weeks ago, my uncle died down in Florida after months of hospitals and then hospice care. I felt so far away and wanted to do something. I knew that with their kids and grandkids and neighbors, my aunt was going to have a revolving door of people. (I remember when my dad died how great it was to have people send food so that no one had to think about cooking – and it reminded people they needed to have something to eat.)

    I wanted to get food there that day. From visiting, I remembered Publix Supermarkets had a great deli. There were a few near their house and I called the closest one. When I asked if they could deliver food that day, the first person I got told me, “No. We don’t do that – you’ll have to pick it up.”

    When I told her that I was in Boston and what the deal was, she again told me, “We don’t do that.”

    I called another Publix. This time I got Steve, the deli manager, at Merchant’s Crossing.

    Steve was AWESOME. I told him the story. I told him what I was hoping for. He was spectacular. Not only did he put together an amazing smorgasbord of sandwiches and desserts – he picked up a card and delivered it all himself – so the food would be there by lunchtime.

    My aunt was thrilled. The food was fantastic but it was much more than that. I told her the story too about how great the experience was with Publix. The next day I went online and wrote to their headquarters.

    My aunt called last week and told me that she had gone in to Publix to look for Steve to thank him. She started telling him the story about her neice calling and he interrupted, “Was her name Erin?”

    They said they had wanted to call me but didn’t know how to get in touch with me – to thank ME! Corporate had made a big deal out of my note and sent it to them and they had hung it up at the store. My aunt said to me, “They LOVE you down at Publix!”

    All I did was say Thank You. It doesn’t take a lot. It just takes a little bit of action yet it can make a big difference. You can really make someone’s day if you notice their hard work. Take a second to appreciate what they are doing and then take a second to act.

    So many people are working so hard these days. Do yourself a favor – pay attention and tell them – and their boss and your friends – when you see something wonderful. It sets off a nice chain reaction – like in this great video.

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    You Don’t Know Me – Tales of a Double Agent Mom

    One of my favorite songs is “You Don’t Know Me” by Ray Charles. Singing it to myself has gotten me through four MRIs and two rounds of labor pains. But today it has another purpose. It is what I want to say to the women I just met: You don’t know me.

    Yesterday was a rude awakening for me. Instead of being celebrated for having the guts to quit a toxic work environment in this economy, my new status to the outside world is “stay-at-home” mom. Something I have never been before.

    In spite of the discouraging run-in I just had with these “working moms”, I realized that this is an opportunity to see things from a new perspective. I get to be a double agent. I now know what it’s like on both sides of the table – kitchen and conference.

    In this economy there are a lot of changes going on in households. People are trying out new roles – often not by choice. I thought it might be helpful to share some of what I have learned so far as a 007 Mom.

    I am the first to admit that when I was “working” I felt like I didn’t fit in with many of the stay-at-home moms. I wasn’t in their circles. I wasn’t in town during the day. I didn’t car pool. I didn’t plan play dates. I didn’t cook. I remember overhearing one conversation about which supermarket had the right kind of bread or someone needing a cheese cloth (I still have no idea what that is) and I just figured this was how the other half lives. I made my assumptions.

    They are “ladies who lunch.” They go to the gym. To the salon. Out for coffee. Shop.

    I used to think how easy it would be. How lucky to NOT have to be the breadwinner, not have the stress of working. After all, once the kids are in school – you would have all day to do whatever you wanted and leave all the work stress to someone else.

    Boy was I ever wrong. That is not how it is. I had no idea what goes on during the day.

    Time, Taxis & Thankless Tasks

    Time

    You have to be crazy good at time management. Calendars. Calls. Organizing. Kids are busy. (I think that people make themselves TOO busy – but that’s a story for another day.) It’s all about who has to be where and when. Every minute is accounted for. It’s up to you to make things happen – on time – every single day.

    Taxis

    Then there is the driving. Everywhere! The joke about “Mom’s Taxi Service” is not a joke. People live in their cars. Always driving to pick up or drop off someone – often at the same time at different places and having to coordinate that. Games. Practices. Lessons. Doctor appointments. Play dates (although I refuse to actually use that phrase). Errands. Which leads to the next big part of the day:

    Thankless Tasks

    At “work” you do something and you get rewarded. You get a performance evaluation. You get a bonus for work well done. You get paid! When you ask someone to do something, they do it. They don’t say, “No” and stomp off to their room. Or ignore you. Or complain about how they had to do it last time. Or ask for “just five more minutes” on the Xbox.

    There are so many thankless tasks that get done every single day. No one says, “Nice job Mom.” Or “Thanks for making that great lunch in 3 minutes.” “Thanks for going to the store.” “Thanks for cleaning the bathroom.” “Thanks for picking me up at school in the rain.” “Thanks for putting my clothes away.” “Thanks for figuring out what to make for dinner – every night!” (A task I personally find Nobel Prize worthy.)

    The gift of seeing things from both perspectives is that I now realize the grass isn’t always greener. (In fact, at my house it’s often brown and covered with leaves.)

    There is a lot of talk about “Do you work?” To which I say, “EVERY mother is a working mother.” The ones who do it without getting paid are often the unsung heroes who don’t get to talk to “grown-ups” during the day, or pursue their own passions or be rewarded for their accomplishments. I do have one request/suggestion though. Please drop the “just” – as in, “I am just a stay-at-home mom.” There is no just. You run the family. You are amazing!

    When I was “working outside” I always felt time-deprived. There was never enough time. I wasn’t there when my kids got home from school. I wasn’t there to help with their homework. I was always running around. I hated Sunday nights, which meant it was all starting up again.

    I thought, “I have to do what the stay-at-home moms do PLUS handle all the work pressures too.” I thought how simple it would be if I “only had the family stuff.” I can’t forget though that I had help with the family stuff. Either a nanny, my husband, an extended family member or friends. When you’re at home – you do it all yourself. No help. No break. 24 hours a day. Often it is much easier to just go to work – especially when the kids are younger.

    Stay-at-home moms also can get lost in the shuffle. They put themselves last. They don’t get the accolades or fulfillment that can come with working. There’s not much joy in doing the laundry – again and again and again. (See Thankless Tasks above.)

    One of the best gifts about being home is that I get to spend more time with my kids. (It may be while driving to trombone practice – but time is time.) I am trying to write my book while they are at school. I am trying to figure out what my next “paying work” will be – since I still do hold the breadwinner title – and just paid a whopper bill to COBRA. Ouch.

    I know that whatever I end up doing I will have a new appreciation for those at home, those at work and those in the middle. We are all just trying to do the best we can – hopefully with the knowledge that this time is precious and try not to waste it. (Weren’t they just in diapers?)

    And as for the “working mom” who inspired this rant:
    You made snide, actually hurtful remarks when you learned I wasn’t working. You literally turned your back on me so you could make a comment to your friend about not knowing what you would possibly do all day if you didn’t work. Once you found out I wasn’t working you didn’t say another word to me (that is, until you gave me a “cookie recipe” – because that must be what I do all day now – sit around and bake cookies.)

    It is too bad that you took off so quickly though. I heard (from ten steps behind you) that you were having trouble with your computer. Too bad you didn’t stop to ask me about myself. You would have found out that I was a CIO (twice). I ran an Innovation & Technology Group. I probably could have answered your question – if you had just asked. I would have been happy to help. But you made assumptions about who I was and what I could (and couldn’t) do without ever getting to know me.

    I am not blaming you. I am sure you didn’t realize what you were doing (and I am sure the cookie recipe is quite good). I am also sure that I must have made my share of ignorant comments about the working/not working thing over the years.

    There is a lot of talk about work/life balance. Stay-at-home Moms vs. Career Moms. Kids with nannies. Kids in daycare. Working Part Time. The juggling. The guilt and stress – on both sides. There are no easy answers or right answers. No “one size fits all.”

    What I do know is that my husband and I keep adjusting and readjusting as we go along. We’ve had nannies. We’ve had my husband at home with the kids. We’ve had me working at home. We have patched things together during lean times. We just keep figuring it out.

    Currently my status is I am a stay-at-home, working Mom who is not being paid by anyone right now. (I also have never been happier!)

    Some advice I do have for “both sides” is:


    1) Give yourself a break.

    You don’t have to be all things to all people. That just runs you ragged and then you’re no good for anyone. Do what you need to do and forget the guilt. I do recommend taking a step back and taking inventory of where you are and what you are doing and seeing how you can improve things. Don’t worry so much about what others think. Make a decision and go with it.

    2) Drop the “time wasters.”
    There are so many “time wasters” out there. Making twenty-three phone calls when two will do. The dreaded Reply All. PLEASE use this sparingly – or better yet, not at all. Not everyone on the list needs a long drawn out explanation of why you can’t make the meeting or event. Just hit Reply and email the organizer with a yes or no and be done.

    Forget things like trying to have the perfect, always spotless home, over-the-top extravagant birthday parties with time intensive goodie bags, hovering over every tiny move of your kids, emailing their teachers after every test, shuttling kids to eight different activities every week… Let some of them go. Don’t sweat the small stuff. It is NOT worth it.

    Your kids won’t remember whether you vacuumed all the time. They will remember snuggling up on the couch by the fire watching a fun movie or playing a game of Trouble or Apples to Apples. They want you – and they’ll take you whenever and wherever you are available. So be there whenever and wherever you can. Soon enough they won’t want anything to do with you – for a while – so enjoy it while you can. You can dust when they’re gone.

    3) Remember, even if you think you do, you don’t know me.

    I had to struggle to hold back my true identity with the working mom I met yesterday. I wanted to see what it felt like to be a “stay at home” mom but it was a struggle not to defend myself – not to defend my status, not to tell her that I have always worked. That I will work again. That I don’t just sit around all day. I didn’t say any of that. I let her make her assumptions. I wanted to see if she would bother to ask me anything about who I was or what I was doing. She didn’t.

    The lesson for me is: Don’t make assumptions about people or judge someone until you walk a mile in their shoes – whether they are sneakers, high heels or slippers. And forget the cookie recipe – just bring me the cookies. I can serve them for dinner.

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    Before the parade passes by…

    I wouldn’t have thought to put this on my Bucket List but I would recommend it: Be in a parade. On a float, if you can. It’s a ball.

    Yesterday was our town Christmas parade. Friends of ours were organizing it and said that if the kids wanted to come by the high school early, they could probably find a float for them to squeeze in on.

    Turns out, we had our own float. Just the four of us. On a big gorgeous float with us waving. I was cracking up. We would see people we knew and I got a kick out of watching the recogmition on their faces when they saw us – Hey it’s the McCormicks! What?

    I loved the kids faces along the parade route. So innocent – just smiling and waving. I laughed the whole time. My kids couldn’t figure out why I was laughing so much. Me either really. I was just happy. It was a beautiful day. Everyone was smiling and enjoying the parade. The kids in the parade had amazing, adorable and clever costumes. And the sheer surprise effect of just showing up and being put on a big float.

    I heard some kids asking their parents about us and how did we get to ride on the float and the parent said, “They must be very special.”

    We felt very special. Thanks Brandie!

    Life’s simple pleasures.

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