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Commentary: Listen to your fellow Texans to find common ground

May 12th, 2021 Posted by featured, writings 0 comments on “Commentary: Listen to your fellow Texans to find common ground”

Susan Combs, For the Express-News, May 11, 2021

I was lucky enough recently to be invited to a preview of a study on Texas — and how Texans feel about a variety of issues — across seven different categories of people. The research commenced about a year ago, involved talking to 4,000 individuals, conducting focus groups and crunching data, and it came up with surprising (to me) cohesion among all groups.

The report — Threads of Texas — from the nonprofit More in Common, which is “devoted to to strengthening social cohesion,” is now available to the public.

People died. Loved ones were sick. We all knew someone who had COVID-19.

Politics took sharp turns at the same time. National, state and local politics were angry and divisive, driving wedges between friends and families.

Now, spring is here, and the tragic and devastating February snowstorm is behind us. That was an unbelievably bad time for too many Texans. But, finally, we are seeing flowers: Vaccinations are up, and the pandemic numbers look better. Fingers are crossed. The air is soft, and the skies are blue.

So getting a chance to listen to a group with the compelling message that, yes, we as a state have more in common than we thought was well worth my time.

For much of the past 18 months, the COVID-19 pandemic upended daily life. Movies, restaurants, hugs. All over. Touching people. Handshakes. Gone.

More In Common has a straightforward, data-driven approach. Slicing and dicing the stats produced more common perspectives than I expected. Sometimes it was how something was phrased that allowed a better human connection.

I have eagerly begun sharing this study with people in my network and urging them to investigate the website. On the phone, I can hear a smile in their voices. There is a surprise but also an upwelling of fragile hope. Really? We don’t hate each other as much as we are told we do?

Turns out when you dig deep, as More In Common did, into attitudes in the Lone Star State, by a sizable majority, we want people of all backgrounds, outlooks and races to feel welcome. Being made to feel welcome is a great thing. It opens mental and emotional doors to connecting. So we might truly be able to put out a statewide welcome mat. That sounds fantastic.

The research also pointed out that, by and large, we do think things will get better. Texans are less divided than residents in other states. But the work is still ahead. With the research and compiled data, there is room for optimism. But hard work, measured words, a way of being inclusive — these are all important tools for approaching each other. Words matter. Using sharp rhetoric for effect can be impactful — but one that too often is negative.

A witty cousin of mine from San Antonio had a mantra, which I adopted: “No negative chacha.” We both instinctively understood that “chacha” stood for all kinds of bad stuff. But the goal of no negative anything has a way of entirely redirecting our perspective. Just think about it: Maybe we should each take a one-day break from screaming into the void online or at our TVs.

We’d be less hoarse from screaming; our blood pressure would undoubtedly benefit; and amazingly, we would be able to hear other people speak.

Listening to understand — that’s one of the most powerful tools we have in our arsenal and one we certainly don’t use often enough. Maybe we could stretch this exercise to a second day. And onward. We might learn something from each other that we simply never could hear before. I am an inveterate optimist. Let’s get started on working toward more in common.

Susan Combs is a former Texas comptroller and agriculture commissioner. She was most recently assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Read the original piece here,

Listen To The Voice Telling You To Be Strong

February 6th, 2017 Posted by featured, Uncategorized, writings 0 comments on “Listen To The Voice Telling You To Be Strong”

Parenting can be hugely scary.  In a very finite and practical way.  When our first child was born, I knew zero about kids.

So imagine my fright when I had to put one of those long sleeved thingies on this child. He was born in May, so why did he need long sleeves? How about just a diaper?  But the conventional wisdom at the time meant I had to put him in a sack contraption with long sleeves.  They weren’t designed for infant arms limp as spaghetti.  I remember how much I sweated, terrified I was going to do something awful to him as I tried to pull on the sleeve.

Ultimately I was able to accomplish this herculean task once I stopped sweating and my hands dried out.  I had made his arm slippery and my fear made a mundane task so much harder.  That was an important lesson.

This entire process started the self-doubt that afflicts many first time mothers.  Are we doing it right? The rushing of love and fear that I felt for that little boy changed me permanently.

I loved that baby and learned how we can be both made strong and weak at the same time. Love made me strong, and fear made me weak yli4kpb.  I had to manage both.

But this lesson of self doubt proved applicable in other areas as well.  While I worried about being a ‘good’ mother, later I was to worry about pursuing the next step on a path, or accomplishing the next task.

I remember my first driving lessons which were in a standard transmission car on the ranch.  I had to manage both the shift and the accelerator pedals smoothly or the car would jerk and sometimes stop.  So often we hit the pedal of self doubt harder than the pedal of courage. We may stall our forward momentum.  Life is like that – pressures from inside and outside.  The trick is to be convinced you can do it. I convinced myself I could raise our child.  I willed myself into that person and was successful.  Over the years I have convinced myself I could manage other tasks, and I have.

It is better to listen to the voice telling you to be strong than the one telling you to be afraid.

Interviews Are Like Trying On Shoes

January 31st, 2017 Posted by featured, Uncategorized, writings 0 comments on “Interviews Are Like Trying On Shoes”

I freely confess that I have been one of the world’s worst interviewees in the job world. My first interview ended with me being speedily ushered out of a giant global airline company. The second one got me a job but probably more through dumb luck than any skills.

Back to the first one. I was ill prepared (which is always a very bad thing), dressed inappropriately (another goof) and I didn’t mesh with the culture of the organization. When I realized that I was being viewed as ‘too fancy’ for the job, I responded by telling the woman that nothing was too fancy for me since I had heaved sheep over fences. That was one sheep too far. I was gone immediately.

The second one involved a different approach. Changed clothing down the economic scale, and decided to just listen. That didn’t work too well at first since instead of offering too much information I offered too little and suggested the interviewer simply read my resume. I have no clue actually why I got offered the job after that inauspicious start.

So what advice do I have? There is kind of an emotional aroma about various places and circumstances, and it can be critical for us to be very receptive to the clues in the interview, many of which are subtle. Interviews, or for that matter, all relationships whether professional or personal, have a certain style. No matter which side of the interview you are on, you need to assess the ‘fit’.

There are interviews also in the non job world. Such as meeting a future spouse’s or partner’s family. Or how about if you are asked to join a group, or a community event. Do you fit in? Do you even want to? And yes, you do have a choice about it.

In many ways throughout life, we have to decide if we want to fit in, if we want to spend time with these people. Are they a bunch of cacti- like people with very sharp edges? Or are they friendly and welcoming, where you know you will feel at home? Being in tune with yourself as well as your surroundings helps each of us avoid potential mistakes. Bad spouses, terrible jobs, fraying relations in your community. Each of these can make you miserable. It is sort of like trying on a new pair of shoes only to find that they pinch horribly and you want to get rid of them shortly after buying them.

Being comfortable in an environment where you feel you can thrive is critical and it takes all of your analytical skills and people antennae to be sure you get the right fit. Have you had this kind of an experience? Let me know. I’d like to hear from you. And be tenacious with your next pair of ‘shoes’!

We Direct Our Own Destiny

January 20th, 2017 Posted by featured, Uncategorized, writings 0 comments on “We Direct Our Own Destiny”

It can be both liberating and exciting to discover how much real strength each of us has. Too often we tell ourselves that we can’t do something, so of course we don’t.  I can’t do this new job, I can’t leave this terrible relationship, I can’t take the next step forward. We don’t understand how powerful our inner self can be. Yet we ultimately are the ones who direct our destiny, if we just will.  If we suffer adversity and then overcome it,  the realization that we triumphed makes us feel fantastic.  

After leaving my first marriage, with all of its fear, I realized that I had taken my future into my own hands.  No one else saved me.  I saved myself This Site.  That was a defining moment in my life.

My high school friend lived just a few blocks away and she welcomed me into her home when I literally ran from my marriage.  I also believe I could have gone to a church, or a police station, or somewhere else, and I would have found help.  But first, I had to make the decision to walk out the door and into a new life.

There was a seismic shift in my head when I realized I was too valuable to stay in an abusive relationship.  All of us are too valuable to live a bad life.  That new perspective made me leave my marriage, and run towards a new future.

This all sounds dramatic and I hope that you don’t have an abusive relationship in your life. But the essence of this experience taught me that I could and should firmly grasp my future and create one where I am valued and my worth as a person becomes real to me.

That realization has helped me over the years.   My hard earned sense of self worth helps me move forward to the next step from wherever I am, to take charge of my destiny.  When I realized I ultimately had to depend on myself for survival, I became my own best guardian.  This is true for each of us.

In a very real way, who cares more about you than you?  When we care for ourselves, and become fierce protectors of ourselves because we are worthy, then we are our own best champions.

Each and every day, remind yourself how valuable you are.  You deserve to be the best person you can be, and to pick the right path.  So let’s all start today charting our next destiny.

Don’t Let Other People’s Expectations Determine Your Life

January 13th, 2017 Posted by featured, writings 0 comments on “Don’t Let Other People’s Expectations Determine Your Life”

Julia Roberts, as the “Runaway Bride,” famously escaped groom after groom, and it was the stuff of movie drama. Why did she run?  What was wrong…with her?  It turns out that ultimately she didn’t know who she was, and therefore the various fiancés didn’t know who was the real person either.  She kept adapting to the fiance’s wishes.  Not her own.  Their expectations determined her life until the pressure built up and she bolted.

In my own case, I was so ‘wedded’ to the idea of marriage that I picked the wrong man.  When I realized there was maybe something really wrong about him and our future, I was tied down by:  the cake, the dress, the reception, the invitations, and of course, the embarrassment.

Rather than stopping the marriage before it happened, I ended up running from it two plus years later.  What lesson did I learn?   That other people’s expectations, i.e. those of society, can be an unreasonable and useless burden.  You are who you are.  You must, in a sense, protect the core you, the real person you are.  If you are ever to achieve the goals you have selected, you have to be somewhat fierce about being consistent with yourself.

On a much smaller scale, but it resonates with me, saying no to a social invitation sometimes makes me squirm.  Why don’t I want to go?  Pause.  Maybe because I don’t want to be with those people, or at this particular time, whatever.  Yet I hesitate.  What will ‘they’ think.

Ever notice how many ‘they’ people there are that we don’t agree with?  A whole mob of them.  

I now step back mentally when I get an invitation like this, and I ask myself:  “What do you want to do and why?”  If upon reflection I feel it adds value to my life in some way, I accept. If I would agree only to meet some one else’s expectations, I probably say no.

Of course, I exclude those family gatherings!  They are a duty sometimes rather than a pleasure but we are also part of our families.  So there are no easy answers.  But when it comes to the big stuff, like long term relationships, advocate for yourself.  Stand up for yourself.  Don’t let anyone else drive your life.  You are worth being the real you!

Risk Tough Struggles in Order to Achieve a Great Outcome

January 9th, 2017 Posted by featured, Uncategorized, writings 0 comments on “Risk Tough Struggles in Order to Achieve a Great Outcome”

We all make mistakes of one kind or another.  And I think it is generally because we are trying to meet someone else’s expectations, or their view of life.  That certainly happened to me.  My worst mistake was prompted by others’ expectations combined with a significant lack in self confidence that I married the wrong man, and ended up literally running for my life.  The expectation had been that I would ‘need’ to get married…’need’ to find a man…and so on.  It could almost be any man.  And I picked the wrong man.

Fortunately I learned from this mistake, and later married a wonderful man with whom I have three terrific sons.  Looking back on that earlier woman I still find it hard to understand how I let myself get into the position I did, except that the external pressure was pretty intense.

If we know and value ourselves, then there really isn’t much mystery about our choices.  The problem is that we may not value ourselves sufficiently to understand there are many ways and paths for our lives to take.  We truly can pick and choose.

I understand that many women, whether through family circumstances, culture, or their environment, are led to believe they are not ‘worth’ a better choice.  They don’t merit something better.  They have to fulfill someone else’s world view.  This is a very pernicious state of mind, and takes effort to get past.

Based on my own experience, my advice for young women of today is very straightforward:  You are absolutely worth the best.  And you need to live the life you choose, not one selected by someone else. You also deserve to have good people around you and in your life.  And my strongest suggestion is to stay away from people who aren’t worthy of you.

Yes, that can be hard.  But ask yourself what other outcome you would like?  In every relationship there eventually is a crossroads.  You get to choose, to decide the direction you will take. Pick the right path.  Your future rests in your own capable hands, and the bright outcome you deserve is waiting for you.

I agreed to marry the ‘mistake’ because I didn’t think I would get a better offer, and many friends had already married.  Who was I waiting for?   The answer I would give today is that I was going to wait for the right person who valued me, and where I could be the person I would dare to be.

The lessons I took away from that early experience have enabled me to overcome many obstacles, to put faith in myself, and to accept a different kind of risk. I am willing to risk tough struggles in order to achieve a great outcome.  You can do it too.

Get Ready to Advocate for Yourself—YES YOU CAN DO IT!

January 4th, 2017 Posted by featured, Uncategorized, writings 0 comments on “Get Ready to Advocate for Yourself—YES YOU CAN DO IT!”

It is very common for us to pause and reflect at the start of a new year…where are we…are we where we want to be…and what do we need to do?   Just this morning I was asked by a woman radio host how I managed to propel myself forward from the start.  Was there one key lesson?

I basically answered her that it was one baby step at a time.  I didn’t leap from one mountain peak to another.  I just made it slowly, building confidence with each small achievement.

In my own life, the first time I tried to ask for a raise, I got way too ‘cute’…meaning I chickened out from just asking directly. Instead I dreamed up this very backward way of trying to get a pay raise.  Looking back, I should’ve just asked for the raise.  I needed to advocate for myself.  It isn’t all that common to have someone else willing to pick up our banner and march ahead for us, so we have to learn to do that for ourselves.

A friend of mine had an issue at work and she was very apprehensive about how to approach her boss.  After talking it out, it seemed that the boss wasn’t aware of the problem she was having.  So she had a great meeting a day or so later with the boss, and to her delighted surprise, it all worked out!  She made her case and was successful.

I have a tendency to over analyze some things…chew it to bits…and probably drive up my anxiety.  My goal for 2017 is to be sure that I am ready to recommit to reaching my goals for the next year.  It always takes some courage if the task seems big, but we should tell ourselves, that we are worth it, and that we can do it.

The idea that we are ‘worth’ something is a concept that we women don’t always focus on enough.  We are worth it – and our worth needs to be defined by us.  We have goals, aspirations, dreams, and we are worth achieving those.  So planning ahead to advocate is a smart strategy.  We need to look ahead, and commit to the path.

Every day I am going to get up and say to myself:  Go advocate for yourself try here.  You can do it! What plans do you have for 2017 to help you achieve your dreams?

Setting Goals for the New Year!

December 27th, 2016 Posted by featured, Uncategorized, writings 0 comments on “Setting Goals for the New Year!”

The next few days and weeks mark the end of the old year, and the coming of the new.  How we view it depends on what we have done,  and how much or little we have left undone.  I’ve always liked even numbers, so leaving an even numbered year takes a bit of a push for me.  I tell myself, 2017 is going to be great!  Getting myself pumped up for the twelve months to come.  Woohoo! But aside from this transition period, I suspect most of us will take stock of the last 12 months and take a look ahead to the future.

This is the time when I take stock of what my goals were just a year ago.  Do they match where I feel I am today?  Do they need fine tuning?  Am I feeling emboldened to actually reach out for the next goal?  Am I prepared to stretch a bit?

For example, in my first job, rather than ask for a raise, I devised a very circuitous strategy.  It didn’t work hop over to this website.  It was fun, and even funny, but not successful.  Lesson learned.  Just ask for the raise.  This object lesson is true in many areas.  Just advocate for yourself.  And for me, in 2017, one of my goals is to devise the best strategies I can to advocate for myself while learning how to better advocate for others.

My goal for myself in 2017 is to work hard at engaging with women, listen to what they are saying, and see if I can help them achieve their dreams.  Let me emphasize again the word ‘their’.  It is all too easy for us to say, well, gee, I think I would do X.    Maybe the person you are with wouldn’t do that.  Your style, vision, and dreams aren’t going to be that of somebody else, or at least not very often.  Just as another person’s goals aren’t yours.  But one thing we can all pledge to do in 2017 is to help each other achieve our goals. This will be a very good thing!

Christmas Memories and Joy

December 19th, 2016 Posted by featured, Uncategorized, writings 0 comments on “Christmas Memories and Joy”

My childhood Christmas memories bring back thoughts of a very special season. Thoughts of a house filled with music (my mother loved carols), the smell of cinnamon, brightly colored decorations, and a recollection of the reason for the celebration.

No matter what your religious affiliation, this time of year is celebrated across the globe. For many of us, it is a time to gather close with family and friends.  Hearing my kids talk to each other, and being able to interact with extended family creates an atmosphere of great joy.

You don’t see this decoration any more, but we used these long stringy so-called icicles- which the more dedicated among us would hang on a tree.  One by one.  A painful process. Others of us with a bit more verve (or simply too much impatience) would hurl them at the tree, where they clumped unattractively. Today we are more careful and the result makes me happy.

We save firewood ensuring we have enough to keep a fire burning in the fireplace.  For most of us, a fire brings a real sense of warmth, safety and companionship.  For some of us, there is a bittersweet flavor if we have lost loved ones during this time of the year, reminding us with affection of those no longer present.

This year our three sons and their families are going to be with us for the weekend, and I am looking forward to it with huge anticipation.  There will be kids ranging in age from 18 months to nearly ten years old, and adults ranging from the thirties to years we don’t discuss.  But no matter the age variation, we are all united in our desire to share companionship, friendship and love.

I hope for each of you that the coming days are filled with joy, and peace, and the warmth of being with loved ones.

It is Normal to be Multi Faceted

December 13th, 2016 Posted by featured, Uncategorized, writings 0 comments on “It is Normal to be Multi Faceted”

We live in a world with incredible avenues for information: TV, print, our phones, computers, electronic tablets. But we get other, and I believe more valuable information, from people. How people behave tells us about them, and about the general world we inhabit. Ultimately we learn about ourselves as well. Order Texas Tenacity today!

I don’t know about you, but there are times when I behave one way, while other times quite differently. This also seems to be true for others. We see others in one context and then we are astonished to see a very different person in a new environment.

My own grandmother was a case in point. To the uninitiated, she seemed very straitlaced, rather stiff, without a lot of zip, verve or pizzazz.   My eyes were opened to a wholly different and astonishing side of her when I realized she was a devoted fan of Friday night wrestling.

My grandmother – the opera and symphony buff- was transformed into a zealot about wrestling. I never found out where this unexpected appetite for the sport came from, but it was genuine. In fact, it was as genuine as the opera buff persona. And yet what contrasts. This taught me that many of us have different ‘skins’ depending on where we are.

It is sort of like how we behave when we are all dressed up and going out. We walk and talk differently. We know we are on parade. And what if others have expectations for us about our externalities? Our parents probably made it clear how we were to behave in particular circumstances, and so we either conformed or we didn’t, but we knew there was a ‘view’ expected of us.

The lesson from all this is that I learned it is normal to be multi faceted. To have various expressions of you, the individual. We aren’t going to be confined in a box. And I have learned the only way to direct our destiny…is to be the person we want to be.

We don’t want to direct our destiny toward being someone else. I remember as a kid being fascinated by those cylinders which you could twist and jumbled colors would fall into amazing shapes. We are like those people. Twist us one way, and we appear one dimensional. Twist us another way and we are wholly different.

We should celebrate and embrace our abilities to be multi faceted. As we observe others with their fascinating personalities, so will others observe us. These lessons about us and others come from everywhere, if we simply are open to seeing. What have you seen that reminds you of this?