I'm sure most of you are familiar with Toys for Tots, the program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve to give holiday toys to children in need. They've been bringing smiles to faces for over 70 years, and they really make it simple to do your ...

 

Wendi Aarons




Toys and More Toys for Tots

I’m sure most of you are familiar with Toys for Tots, the program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve to give holiday toys to children in need. They’ve been bringing smiles to faces for over 70 years, and they really make it simple to do your part in spreading the joy.

And now it’s even easier to donate because you can do it via Amazon. If you have an Echo or another Alexa-enabled device, all you have to do is say, “Alexa, donate to Toys for Tots.” That’s it. Then tell it to play Christmas music or land the space shuttle or whatever it is you talk about. I don’t know. I’m not in your house. You and your Alexa have your own special relationship.

BUT, here’s the best part: after you tell Alexa to donate to Toys for Tots, Amazon will match your donations throughout the end of the year – toy for toy – doubling everyone’s contributions. How great is that? This is the first time customers can donate a product to charity via voice shopping (which is apparently a term we’re using now. Voice shopping.) So not just one, but two teddy bears, not just one, but two Barbie dolls, not just one, but two whatever it is that kids play with now. I have no idea because my sons are teenagers and their wishlists just say, “Cash.” But it’s the best two for one you can get.

I hope you’ll all take a minute to do this, because that’s literally all it takes is a minute, and help Amazon and the USMC bring more smiles to even more faces this year. Here’s a nice video about the program.

 

     
 

The Age of Influence

I’ve experienced quite a few undignified things as I’ve gotten older. I’ve hurt my back while sneezing. I’ve been invited to check out a new assisted living center and meet “vibrant seniors” my age. I’ve struggled to keep my hands in my pockets so I don’t choke the neck of the X-ray tech who said, “I won’t ask you if you’re pregnant because hahaha yeah right.” You know it’s hard out here for a 50-year-old.

But despite the sting of the indignities, my ego is doing just fine because there’s something else that comes along with age and it’s pretty damn great. I have become a Know-It-All.

By that I don’t mean I’ve gotten smarter. No, I still yell, “What is Hercules!” at all of the bible category questions when I watch Jeopardy! It’s just that I now know enough about life to give advice to younger people. Mostly unsolicited advice, if I’m being honest. Like last week when I said “Excuse me” while passing a woman in a store and she immediately gasped, “Sorry!” I stopped, turned around, and told her there was absolutely no reason for her to apologize because she has a right to exist. Even in Nordstrom’s. Then I suggested she take the word “sorry” out of her vocabulary, and also not buy the poly/cotton blend sweater she was holding because god knows those things never look good after the first wash.

It occurs to me that being a Know-It-All might also mean I’m super obnoxious.

But here’s something else that happens when you get older: you no longer give a shit about what people think of you. I know I certainly don’t. And this not worrying about saying or doing the right thing all of the time is unbelievably liberating. Freeing. With each passing year, I feel lighter and I’m not even going to turn that into a Weight Watchers joke because it’s true. I wish I’d had this confidence twenty years ago.

Which brings me to a discussion about this very topic I recently had at a dinner hosted by my friend Meredith Walker, Executive Director of Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, and Karen Chong, Director of Audience & Influencer Engagement at AARP. The topic that evening was “Mentoring the Next Generation” and the question was how can we best impart our experience and knowledge to youngsters while also taking away the stigma of aging. The twenty Austin women gathered, women accomplished in the worlds of art, music, film, politics and business, definitely had a lot of good insight and not just because we also had a lot of good wine on the table. (That’s another thing I’ve become a know-it-all about. Wine. Okay, not really, but I did recently turn down a glass of $3 white zinfandel.)

My friend Meredith has been a favorite person of mine for many years, and one of the reasons why is because she has devoted her career to mentoring. Through her work, she’s realized the impact that an older woman can have on a girl’s future. As she puts it, “We need to reach down and help those growing up.” She believes that mentoring is a responsibility for all of us, whether we’re parents, teachers, coaches or the weird woman in a store who has strong opinions on fabric. It’s just the right thing to do.

Of course, if we want to encourage this shared wisdom between young and old generations, we have to first take away the stigma of aging. We have to make people my age realize how valuable our knowledge is and feel good about sharing it. After all, how does it help the world if you know great ways to negotiate a raise, but keep them to yourself? Tell the women in your office. Tell the women in your family. Tell me because I have my eye on a sweet new convertible. But just think of how much you would have loved to have someone’s insight when you were younger. “Be the person you hoped you’d be,” as Meredith says.

And if you’re a younger woman and someone older offers you advice? Listen. Listen because they’ve already been on your path and know where all of the potholes and wrong turns lie. Yes, it’s easy to dismiss a woman 40+ because she may be a little gray, a little wrinkled and she thinks “Rihanna” is pronounced “Rye-hawn-ah” (an honest mistake). But don’t dismiss these people because doing that isn’t good for anyone. Thinking older women aren’t relevant is called “ageism” and that’s a total jerk move even Ryehawnah wouldn’t make.

Karen Chong, Director of Audience & Influencer Engagement at AARP, told us at the dinner that aging stereotypes are insidious, and internalizing them can take seven years off your life. “It’s as bad for you as smoking,” she said while we all silently calculated all of the amazing things we could do in those seven years. So many Netflix binges. “Plus,” she added, “50 isn’t what it used to be. 50 is the midpoint of life and it should be a rite of passage that’s celebrated.” As someone who spent her 50th birthday badly dancing to Prince with a houseful of weirdos I call friends, I wholeheartedly agree.

But no matter how old you are, remember this: Aging is wisdom and it’s a privilege. When someone asks you how old you are, don’t shy away from answering. Tell them the number. Be proud of the number. Spell the number out in freaking firecrackers and light them off with a match you’re holding in your teeth, I don’t care. But own your age. Live your age. Love your age. And then share what you’ve learned at your age with others because it’ll make all of us better people. I really think it will.

See, I told you I was a Know-It-All.

Thank you to DisruptAging for sponsoring this post and for the wonderful dinner. All opinions (and the bottle of wine I stole) are mine.

 

 

 

     
 

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s a GenderAvenger

Question: What do you call five white men and no women sitting on a stage?

A) Normal

B) Typical

C) Barfffff

D) All of the above

If you answered D, congratulations! You win a prize for being correct. And your prize is that I’m going to tell you why gender imbalance needs to be called out and how you can easily do it via the GenderAvenger app! (Sorry if you were hoping the prize was a car, but this is a budget operation here at wendiaarons.com. I’m no Oprah.)

When I was growing up, men outnumbered women in most places of power: panels, news shows, management, etc. It wasn’t until I was 14-years-old that Sandra Day O’Conner was appointed the first woman on the US Supreme Court and even that was an anomaly. I admit that I didn’t really think about this lack of women or why I wasn’t represented. It was just how things were. The only time I ever saw a majority of women onstage was during the Miss USA pageant where we girls were expected to be inspired by Miss Indiana tap dancing in a bikini to an Al Jolson song. Thank goodness baton twirling never seemed like a good career option to me. I just don’t have the coordination.

Of course, as I got older and more aware, I definitely noticed the lack of women on panels and in management. I worked in the movie business and in advertising, where there was a lot of all-male glorification going on. Just look at the staff of most late night comedy shows, for example. It’s like a sausage fest every time the Letterman writers walk on stage to accept an Emmy. That’s discouraging for any female who has hopes of some day joining their ranks, but these men will continue to only hire other men as long as they get away with it.

So let’s stop them.

The past few years have brought more and wider attention to gender imbalance, and that’s great for all of us. This awareness is due in large part to social media. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are great platforms for women to call out panels of all men, popularly known as “manels.” (Not to be confused with manspreading, which is what a man does on a manel when he’s mansplaining about his manscaping, man.) But it’s this public calling out that’s led to the organizers of events finally realizing they need to work harder to bring more (or even SOME) diversity to their speaker line-ups. Thank goodness. Welcome to 2018, everyone.

One of the best ways to highlight the gender imbalances you see is via the easy and fun to use app from GenderAvenger. I made a few tallies with it, including a couple that seemed appropriate during election season. Like this one of our current US Congress. Is the population of the United States 80% male? No? Then why is the US House of Representatives? Maybe they don’t know what “representative” actually means.

Things in the Texas Senate aren’t much better, with 75% of the Senators male and not a single women of color. Yeehaw.

This election year, we’ve seen a surge in women, women of color and non-binary people running for office, so I hope I can soon update these charts and see more balance. It’ll be interesting to keep making tallies and see the progress as white men lose their deathly grips on power.

Gender imbalance isn’t only in politics, of course. I did a Google search for the top film critics, curious to see if it’d changed from being mostly male like I remember from years ago. Surely with all of the smart, film-educated women there are now, the balance would be closer. Nope. This majority of men considered “top critics” is pretty ridiculous when women filmmakers are striving for more work, and the thing that’ll help them get it is positive reviews from critics who understand their art better than old white guys. (Although I’m sure Roger Ebert would have loved “Wonder Woman.”)

 

Sometimes using the GenderAvenger app leads to pleasant surprises, however, like when I looked at the speaker line-up for the Smart Social Summit being held in Austin this month. I tallied the genders and what did I find? More women than men! I’m still in shock, and I’ll be talking up this summit to anyone who mentions a manel, that’s for sure. Good job, Smart Social Summit.


Download the app and create your own tallies for comedy shows, lists of top authors, bylines in the newspaper and other things that seem out of balance. The tally you make can then be titled and automatically posted to social media and shared with your followers. Spread the word about both the good and bad balances you come across in your daily life and it’ll enact change. I really think it will.

Another cool thing you can do with the app is time who’s talking. Like if you’re at a city council meeting, each time a man is talking click “A Dude” and each time a woman is talking, click “Not a Dude.” Hmmm, I wonder which person will speak longer? says the woman who just had a cellphone salesman mansplain to her how phones work. But if there’s someone hogging the mic, call him out.

And when you do see something that’s done well? When there’s a great balance? Let GenderAvenger know and they’ll award them with their Stamp of Approval.

 

I hope you’ll download the app and start sharing your tallies. If enough of us do it, it’ll make a difference. And real change is way better than winning a new car, right? For more information, visit https://www.genderavenger.com/.

This post was sponsored by GenderAvenger, but all opinions and attempts at humor are mine.

 

You Have An Item In Your Cart, Asshole

1 p.m.

Hey, there! It looks like you left something in your cart! It’s saved for you and ready to buy. The Roessler Upholstered Storage Bench is waiting for you!

1:20 p.m.

Good news! The bench you placed in your cart is still there! Get it now before someone else snags this great storage deal!

1:40 p.m.

ALL BENCHES NOW ON SALE! YOU WON’T WANT TO MISS THESE DEALS! (Roessler Upholstered Storage Bench not included)

2:00 p.m.

Pssst…. we don’t mean to bother you, it’s just that this bench that’s way more than a spare seat or stylish accent has been sitting in your cart for a while now and we’re getting worried that something has happened to you. Can you just let us know that everything’s okay?

2:15 p.m.

Honestly, deserting a bench in your storage cart says a lot more about you than it does about us, man. We’ll be fine. We’re good. We’re not going to trip on a non-stored toy, crack our head and die alone and unloved on cold, hard tile like a Dickensian street urchin. You might. Free shipping over $75!

2:20 p.m.

Question: Who thinks about you day and night and wonders why you abandoned it like a traveling businessman abandons a hooker at sunrise? Answer: The Roessler Upholstered Storage Bench! Are you even getting these emails?

2:30 p.m.

DON’T MISS THIS! BENCHES NOW UP TO 50% OFF REGULAR PRICE! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND ALL THINGS HOLY THIS IS THE BEST BENCH SALE WE’VE EVER HAD! (Roessler Upholstered Storage Bench not included)

2:45 p.m.

Just who do you think you are, anyway? You give the Roessler Storage Bench a little attention, a little excitement, get its hopes up, and then you just pretend it doesn’t exist? Get over yourself, idiot. You’re not that hot.

2:46 p.m.

WE SAW YOUR ATTEMPT TO UNSUBSCRIBE AND IT HAS BEEN DENIED

2:50 p.m.

It’s like, we know you were interested in the Roessler Upholstered Storage Bench at one point, so what changed? Was it us? Is there something we’re doing that you don’t like? We thought you were into bench frames that flaunt a nailhead trim on the 100% polyester upholstery in a solid neutral color, but hey, maybe we don’t know you as well as we thought we did. Maybe we’re the jerks. Maybe it was all just a stupid, stupid lie.

3:00 p.m.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR PURCHASE! Unfortunately, the item you requested, the Roessler Upholstered Storage Bench, is currently out of stock. We’ll contact you when it’s once again available, most likely in 10-12 weeks.

 

 

Then and Now Kids: Help Navigating the Teenage Years

There aren’t a lot of parenting resources to address your concerns once your kids hit the teenage years. And the ones that do exist are mostly (and appropriately) about protecting your teen from the many dangers they may now encounter. You can feel kind of lost when sometimes all you want to know is that a door slam and being told you’re ruining someone’s life is normal behavior. That’s why I was heartened to learn of the new Center for Parent and Teen Communication. The director, Dr. Ginsburg, tells parents of teens that it’s not all doom and gloom. We shouldn’t just focus on the arguing and the eye rolling and your kid’s inability to put clothes in the laundry basket. Rather, he reminds us to recognize that the little kid you fell in love with years ago is still inside the teenager who now towers above you. 

THEN

At age two, it was jets. Sam knew the name of every fighter jet in the world and spent hours landing toy planes on his model aircraft carrier. His favorite movie was “Top Gun.” At three, it was animals. We gave him a 300-page guidebook, and he returned it to us within minutes, disgusted that it didn’t include something called a binturong. A day after I decorated his room in a jungle theme, he decided that his fourth year of life would be devoted to all things dinosaur. Books, movies, games, museums, we lived in the prehistoric period for what felt like an ice age. I delighted in the fact that when Sam decided he liked something, he didn’t just like it. He embraced it.

NOW

Sam’s 16th summer was spent working at movie theater. He took tickets, watched blockbusters, and drank way more blue Icees than considered healthy. And he fell in love with movies. Not in the casual movie-goer way, but in the “these are the top 100 films and I’m going to watch all of them” Sam way. Now when I peek in his room at 11pm, I find him glued to “Batman Returns” on his laptop because he “has to get through the franchise.” He tells me what he’s watched and what he’s going to watch, and he loves to debate why something was good or not good. It’s a lot like how we used to have never-ending talks about which dinosaur was the best dinosaur. Just recently he asked me for a movie recommendation, and I think he’ll really like the one I suggested: “Top Gun.”

Dr. Ginsburg tells us to see our teenagers as they deserve to be seen, rather than through their particular behavior at the moment. It’s a great reminder to not focus on their negative actions when these kids are still trying to figure out how to just exist. Take a few minutes to watch the video for more insights like that, and if you have any Then/Now memories of your own kids, I’d love to hear them!

 

 

This post is sponsored by the Center for Parent and Teen Communication; a new resource for every parent navigating the teen years #ThenandNowKids #CPTC