Monthly Archives: June 2013

Running and Drinking – My Parallel Universe

RUNNING: When you get to the point where you begin to fall into your stride around mile three and suddenly things you never really considered important suddenly mean more: time, shoes, stride, efficiency, cross-training efficacy on heart-rate recovery (OK, that’s a little over the top, even for super-nerd, but you get my drift).

VODKA: When you get to that point when you definitely realize that you strongly prefer a specific type of vodka (Belvedere) for your martinis.

Agnes & Friends

Agnes & Friends

Recently, during a training session with the amazing Magen at my gym I was bitching about how I’d somehow inadvertently put back on ten flipping pounds or thereabouts. What the eff? Magen started in on over-training and my body starting to betray me and potentially keeping extra fat available in case I suddenly up and decided to train during cocktail hour (please, that’s not possible). She suggested that I take a week off from strength and if I do anything at all, have it be a couple of 1500M swims or a 2-3 mile run. Quick cardio and only twice in the week off. Again, what the eff? I literally said, “Why can’t you tell me that I drink too much or that I eat too much frosting?” To which Magen just laughed in response while the lady on the old rickety nautilus machine said “You should walk – last summer, I walked and I still drank and I managed to lose 4 pounds on vacation.” OK, thanks for the pointers!! She later told me I should also get one of those beach cruisers and go everywhere on it, even to the store to get milk – “Get one with a big basket!” She came all the way down from the land of old people machines to the training floor to tell me this. I love that she recognized a fellow alcoholic. Cheers to you, Agnes, or whatever your name is.

I also asked Magen if it was time to admit that you have a drinking problem when you realize quite clearly that you strongly prefer a specific type of vodka (Belvedere) for your slightly dirty martinis. She laughed, but I went on to explain that I also have a preferred shaker, a set amount of ice and a definite number of times it should be shaken. A tiny aside: My dad believed very strongly in stirred martinis so I feel as though I’m betraying him by admitting to my shaken preference, but I’ve also betrayed him in using vodka instead of gin, so there’s that. martini olivesI like only a tiny bit of olive juice and while I enjoy small olives in the bottom of my highball glass (NOT a martini glass – wouldn’t want to spill a drop), I do not like to eat them. I’m often pleasantly surprised at the number of people in my life who know how to make a martini for me. Kudos to you!

My drinking habits have progressed nicely I think from those days of mountain dew and tequila in the can (way underage and boy, did that make me ill). Magen and I decided that it’s only a problem if you don’t have a preference – like what if you actually were fine chugging Papov in your martini? That’s a borderline vanilla-drinking problem.

While I continued to breathe heavily and bitch about my workout, I started thinking on a completely different plane, but parallel to the vodka conversation, that I’d also come to a bit of a nice place in my running. It was probably a month or so ago when I started working towards the 10k goal that I had a bit of an epiphany on a 5 mile run in the country. Actually the country is my neighborhood, mmmmm can’t you just smell the burnpiles and cow poop? At least there’s a nice view, but I digress.

I had just finished up my loop on the super view road (see photo at left). morning runI can only run to the cattle path at the end of this road because the local rumor is that the land past that point belongs to Ronde and Tiki Barber’s mother and she doesn’t like to have her place disturbed. I actually know she lives in DC, but I’m not trying to ruin a good rumor. After the loop, I’m close to three miles but I have a really curvy, shady fun run down to the river and the wooden bridge at this point. All of a sudden as I’m cruising past Tex’s new place (see previous post), I realize I’m totally getting into my stride – my legs are reaching, my arms are pumping nicely front to back and my back feels really strong. I’d love to say I was listening to the dulcet tones of the cicadas or something, but I’m pretty sure Katy Perry or Ke$ha was preaching to me about dancing on tables. That’s my dope ass running mix. Sorry. So, there I am, striding, feeling great and I don’t hurt at all, I’m not winded, I’m so in the moment. I get to the bottom, cross the river and I still have the kick in me to get up the other side and I mean all the way up – it’s a long, slow grind. And then I still have it in me to finish up and loop back to the farm (where my support team waits). Support TeamAmazing. I look at my time and I can’t believe I’ve covered a little over 5 miles in 51 minutes. I’m not even upset, I’m impressed!

Since then, I’ve been timing most all my runs, checking my time/mile and taking more measures to shore up he strength in my legs, my back and my feet. I went to the running store and had the peeps there put my dogs in some new shoes – I switched from Saucony to Asics for the first time in my life and I realized I need forward moving road runners and more laterally supportive (and less expensive I might add) trainers for my gym workouts. I’m hoping this will help some with shin splints. I’ve started to check my gate, my stride and my foot placement as I run, but not enough to distract me from the task.

I admit that I still hate running, but I’m looking at it as a challenge. How far can I really take this? Will I make the 10k? How about a ten miler? Now that I know my PR for a 5k (28:15) and what a good mile for me is 9:45, what’s the next step? Certainly, I’ll never be a runaholic (not a word, I know), hopefully the same way I’ll never be a true alcoholic, but I can hope to be pretty good at both pastimes. After all, I’m about to go on vacation and we must remember Agnes’ advice for losing weight while on vacation, “You need to walk and drink, oh and get a big basket.”  I think I can handle that.




Slightly Odd Bear Grylls Dream

Bear Book

I just woke up from a dream about being stuck in prison with Bear Grylls. Well, I’m sure it was prison for him, it was more like Betty Ford for me. That guy is just full of fresh air and vigor. Jeeze. I have, in reality, just finished reading his autobiography which is quite good (did you know he joined the SAS as a civilian?). I highly recommend this one. He either has a great ghost writer or he can actually write pretty well with frankness, brevity and a sense of humor. I just love little bitty chapters. Makes the read go SO much quicker. This was an impulse buy for me while traveling (picked up in the airport), but it totally worked out. Even if you don’t like the series, the guy has a really interesting story and a great outlook on life and family. Though I’m still undecided on whether I’d want to be stuck at Betty Ford with him. Grubs really aren’t my cup of tea.

Devaluing the American Worker: Millennial Style

So, here’s another piece of the puzzle to the discussion I posted last week on the consistent devaluing of the American worker. According to the article cobbling together jobs from temping, part-timing and free-lancing is the new way of creating a full time work experience for the Millennial generation. It’s just a more mature, better educated version of the unpaid internship and it continues to not only devalue the worker, but it has long-term ill effects on the recovery of the economy. Piecing together work in this way makes it impossible to maintain benefits, less likely to gain access to lines of credit (making access to disposable income more readily available), and nearly impossible to qualify for home loans (to boost the real estate sector). Is this really what the new workplace looks like? Are we being conditioned to accept this as the new reality?

Read the story: NPR’s Marketplace Piece – For millenials, a patchwork quilt of part-time jobs will have to do.

Rise of the Unpaid Intern (or the Systematic Devaluing of the American Worker)

WARNING – some personal rambling and then a succinct summation (I hope).

So there are a number of things that disturb me about this spate of articles I’m going to link to today. Simply (and perhaps crudely) synthesized, all of the pieces I’m sharing pertain to the value of a worker, and more importantly, the effect of the unpaid internship on said value. In my mind, there are three levels to this discussion. Due to the demands of children (and because of them, the number of martinis I’ve consumed over the last few weeks), I’m not guaranteeing complete clarity, but I am going to attempt to connect all these dots.

At the first level there are unpaid internships, usually taken on at the college level, sometimes the graduate level (although in a recent Vince Vaughn film even 40-somethings aren’t immune to this ass kissing, non-forward moving position), with the faint hope that the experience might lead to at least an eventual interview for a position, either in that company or in one similar to it. At this level I can personally remember being more concerned about building my resume and learning skills than actually obtaining the job. At the second level I am starting to see how the unpaid internship cripples the job-seeker. It is certainly easier to give work to one or more unpaid interns than create a position with benefits for someone who is either just starting out or is career switching (in my case career switching just means that you can’t find a job doing what you originally set out to do because somewhere along the way you stopped to have a life (read: babies)). At the third level, and on a slightly more specialized plane, there is the world of the non-profit where the dependence on unpaid interns and a cadre of overqualified volunteers has become much more entrenched than ever before.

I have heaps of experience working in non-profit: As a student intern (Habitat for Humanity, Legal Aid, etc.); As a young person at the entrance level of the working world in higher education (Admissions); As a slightly older and surely more wiser adult serving at the mercy of federally funded grants (in a university while working on a PhD); And more recently, as an extremely overqualified part-timer in a scholarship organization.

As a student, it was all about the experience. In my first few ‘real jobs’ in admissions and financial aid, I just loved what I did so much that I totally took for granted my wage (pretty good) and benefits (darn near awesome by today’s standards). I never made a whole lot of money but I felt taken care of and appreciated. Adventure in SalzburgAt the next level in a more professional atmosphere working in research at an R1 university, I definitely understood and appreciated my wage benefits as slight as they may have been. I had health insurance and I made a part-time salary (I was a full time student) that equalled something like $25/hour. Pretty sweet gig and I earned my PhD while I was doing it. All of my travel and conferences were paid for (see giddy picture of me in Salzburg, post-conference, of course) and I was racking up the professional university experience.

Lastly, I switched back to the much less glamorous world of non-profit work where the emphasis is quite severely on fundraising and ass kissing. Seriously, anyone who works in non-profit knows that no matter how much you truly do believe in the mission, you still feel like an ass kisser most of the time. Now, at my prior R1 I was paid a good salary and benefits even if I worked only 20-30 hours per week. At the non-profit level I worked consistently more than 25 hours per week and received no benefits and an hourly wage that remained consistent to what I was earning prior to my PhD. I received absolutely no benefits (unless you count a warm heart, and that doesn’t go very far when you have a family) and very little room to grow, i.e.: 1. Attend, much less present at applicable conferences; 2. Publish in academic journals; 3. Serve as director of events I had conceived; 4. Distribute or manage funds I brought in; 5. Direct those areas in which I was told to oversee. Instead, I served as an extremely overqualified intern. You can imagine the shape of my ego and confidence after this experience. If you can’t imagine it, here’s a pretty good animation – Squidward at left.

Here are a few articles that I’ve enjoyed perusing over the last few weeks while I’ve been thinking about the value of my own work. I do believe that the unpaid internship has morphed into something that serves a completely different purpose than that for which it was originally intended. It now sits precariously in the way of job creation and the forward movement of the economy (maybe a tad dramatic, but you get my drift). Additionally, for those of us in the world of higher education (proper), internships are a necessary part of the process and without them we wouldn’t have the opportunities we need to grow. In the ‘outside of education’ world of non-profit, the role of the internship has become the extension of the working office. Most small and many mid-size non-profits rely far too heavily on unpaid workers and this inhibits growth and creativity. As an organization (or a business), when you devalue your workers, you devalue yourself and your mission. Full stop.

Level 1:

NPR Piece on Unpaid vs. Paid Internships

Blogger Response to Unpaid Internship Issue (full credit to Quote from this blog: “If you are genuinely seeking the perspective of the folks you want to serve, you need to be hiring someone other than a grad student who can afford to live in Manhattan for three months without a salary.” This is one HUGE reason that the scholarship program for which I used to work actually provided cost of living for students to take on unpaid internships. It really helped cut the gap between the haves and have nots; HOWEVER, I know of no program like it to assist middle class kids who simply can’t afford to take on an unpaid internship, even if they’re just trying to make book money over the summer to help their parents pay for college.

Level 2:

An Online Discussion from ProPublica Biggest takeaway from this piece for me –  “I have a friend in PR that went through 2 rounds of interviews for a job before being told they’d decided to split the position’s work between two interns instead of hiring someone,” said commenter Jess. I just LOVE this and I’ve heard it before and I’ve had it happen in a department in which I worked – “We can’t really hire right now, so we’re going to give this work to some interns.” In my higher education world, that ‘intern’ was often an already underpaid lowly person on the totem pole.

Level 3:

Inequitable Salaries at Non-profits From the Chronicle of Philanthropy; Quote that will stay with you: “Women and human-service workers are systematically underpaid, and organizations are increasingly turning to volunteers as unpaid but essential labor. Philanthropy, for its part, tends to reward those organizations with the lowest investment in human resources while simultaneously creating programs aimed at lifting underpaid laborers such as immigrants, single parents, and veterans out of poverty.” TYPICAL – SO TYPICAL. We make enough money to do what we do (just barely), but we’ll never be able to pay our staff. We can make up for that shortfall in other ways, but we often don’t have the time for that.

The piece on recommendations for leaders of non-profits I’m not a big fan of necessarily but this article within an article has some really sound advice for leaders of non-profit organizations – how to collect, groom, and keep really talented individuals.

Advice for leaders:

Pay reasonable salaries and provide good benefits. Financial sacrifice should no longer be part of the nonprofit business model. Passion will not trump decent pay and reasonable work hours.

Engage in succession planning. Periodically ask if you are still the right person for the job, and be proactive in attracting and retaining talented staff who might be eligible for future leadership.

Advice for the BOARD:

Pay reasonable salaries and provide benefits to staff.

-Look beyond the Executive Director and make sure that leadership is being developed deep in the organization.

Advice for FUNDERS:

Avoid behaviors that make things worse for nonprofits and their leaders. In the study, the challenge of accessing institutional capital was one of the causes of executive burnout. Plus, among next generation leaders, an aversion to fundraising was the primary reason people gave for not aspiring to nonprofit leadership roles.*

* “…aversion to fundraising” = ass kissing just plain sucks.