Tag Archives: work

Reading lately

I’m finally, FINALLY starting to feel less like a zombie and staying up later, so I’ve been getting more reading done.


Our latest book club selection, The Paying Guests was a pretty steamy read, set in 1922 London, and rather suspenseful. I stayed up until MIDNIGHT (on a Saturday night in my pajamas) to finish it.


I just read probably the best answer ever to the age old “Should I Have a Baby or Establish My Career First?” dilemma. Way to go Heather Havrilesky, Ask Polly columnist for The Cut.

Choice quotes:

Because having it all, by its very nature, implies that you have a lot more than you can handle. Who can handle “it all,” anyway? “ALL” IS A WHOLE FUCKING HELL OF A LOT.

Choose both. Choose the career AND choose the baby. Don’t put off one for the other. Choose both now and later and accept that you’ll be juggling for years no matter what you do. Even if you never have a career, you’re going to feel like you’re juggling. Parents juggle. Why not juggle things you love? Sure, you’ll have to work hard and make some sacrifices. Accept it and move forward.

One other thing: Being pregnant makes you irritable and ambitious at the same time. Use that energy to fuel your new business. Once you stop feeling hung-over around the clock, you’re going to want to conquer new terrain and strangle anyone who tells you to “relax” with your bare hands.

That last part, so true. I’m finally coming out of hibernation mode and I’ve put my Let’s Get Shit Done maternity pants on. Bring it.


Oh, and the book that kept me up and turning pages last night (in a totally different way than The Paying Guests), a geek-out over “Diving Deep in Community Engagement: A Model for Professional Development,” edited by the fierce ladies Mandi McReynolds and Emily Shields, two women who I feel very fortunate to have gotten to know over the past few years.

When I interviewed for my job in Community Relations at DMU, I know I wanted to move my career in this direction, and opening the book was like lighting a torch inside of a cave. I’m just wrapping up my first year in this position and opening Diving Deep was like seeing the way forward illuminated. It feels wonderful to have such intelligent, supportive professionals down the street (and in my Facebook friend feed so I can send them fangirl messages late into the evening, of course) as I move into year two.


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February funk

I spent February in a funk — acting as my own trash-talking Kanye, sabotaging my self-confidence after the honor of being named the 2014 Amy Jennings YP Impact Award winner. IMG_20150204_202253 The week before the awards, I was excited about our family vacation to Florida, realizing a lifelong dream to see the manatees in their natural habitat. I had a hunch, and a few days before we took off confirmed that we would be bringing another teeny tiny family member along for the adventure.

I don’t know why (well, partly, hormones, I imagine), but winning that award sort of freaked me out. It felt really full circle: I moved to Des Moines in 2007 not knowing anyone, got to meet lots of people and learn the city through my job at Juice, quit to be more involved in community projects, and seven or so years later was recognized by my former employer for that community impact. There’s a sweetness to the cycle, but I also felt a strange sense of oh-shit-where-do-I-go-from-here, exacerbated by the knowledge that in about 9 months I’d be burrowing in with an infant, trying to figure out life with two kids.

I’m scared that I’ll get overwhelmed and ‘disappear’ from the doers club. I don’t like feeling wiped out and not leaving myself time to sew and read things and drink wine with friends. The first trimester is mostly about exhaustion and worry and extra bowls of cereal — at least for me.

I know that life has its seasons and that by choosing a family I will have to say ‘no’ to some things. (I kind of have this personal rule now that I try not to be gone more than two evenings a week and one big weekend chunk, out of fairness to Joe and a need for balance.) I know there are lots of amazing examples of people with kids who stay active. I read Amy Poehler’s Yes Please and laughed and felt a little bit better, but also a lot bit in awe of her. 7 There’s a lot of talk about attracting talent to Des Moines and I think the same leaders who are interested in luring young people to the city need to consider what will keep them here. Retention is just as important: it would be a pity to see people who come here to kickstart their careers leave at that point when all we’ve invested in their development is paying off. And for those of us like me, who maybe five to seven years into our Iowa lives start families of adorable Iowa natives– our ability to be involved is only as strong as our support networks.

Although I have no intention of leaving, Joe and I don’t have any parents in the area (my mom lives in Chicago and his in Council Bluffs). It seems that many times once people have children, they move back to a hometown because having grandparents nearby helps with childcare. We get many ‘boomerang’ Iowans back this way, but could lose others.

I strongly believe the second half of the YP equation is encouraging employers to provide flex time, family leave and – ideally – access to affordable, quality childcare options. And for us young professionals to support each other and value the choices that each of us make in how to spend our time — out and about and at home. Because who among us really has it all figured out?

March forward!

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NON-CON is in one month

I’m so excited! YNPN Des Moines is hosting our first mini conference and after party on Jan. 8, 2015 to celebrate our second programming year. We’ll be exploring topics in nonprofit management through the lens of art, a theme that was inspired by our hosts, the Des Moines Social Club, and a desire to have a Powerpoint-free conference.  NON-CON attendees will creatively address challenges in the nonprofit sector and enjoy a space to meet and learn from potential collaborators.



Who’s it for? The event is open to professionals of all ages and experience levels. Whether you currently work at a charitable organization or have goals to be a change-maker in our community, you will come away excited and energized to fulfill your mission. It’s FREE for YNPN Des Moines members or $45 for the general public. (I’ll let you in on a secret – the membership is a steal!) Get tickets here.

The best thing about planning this is working with a team of our up-and coming leadership, and pulling in amazing artists and nonprofit pros to facilitate.

Laura of XO-LP will bring her nonprofit pro background and super illustrator skills together as part of a team going inside the mind of fundraising.

Emily, a nonprofit pro by day and yoga instructor by early morning/evening will drop some burnout prevention tactics.

Kristopher and Emily of RUN DSM will be there with all of their characteristic energetic reciprocity.

Nick Renkoski, a man of many talents, will facilitate an unconventional opening session.

I had to get out of my comfort zone to recruit sponsors and am so thankful to the companies who stepped up to support this event! We’re splitting our sponsor dollars with the Social Club, so it was cool to find a way to contribute to an organization I’ve appreciated for a long time. Please join us Jan. 8!


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Filed under I love Des Moines, Side projects

Med school without the studying

Have I mentioned yet how much I’m loving my new job? Six weeks down! Check out our Drake Relays Square:


Even though I’ve lived just up the street from Des Moines University for years, I’m just now discovering how many cool programs the school offers for the community.
I don’t want you to miss out! Even out-of-town readers can get in on #1.

Here are 7 ways to engage with DMU without studying:


1. Take DMU’s free, online medical terminology course. Learn some medical jargon and your next trip to the doctor will be less intimidating/dramas like “House” will be even more fun to watch. The course is also available in Spanish. Get started.

2. Register as a body donor. Many of us don’t think twice about signing the back of our driver’s license to signify our intentions as an organ donor. That’s a fantastic, ultimate gift. Did you know you can also register as a body donor so that future doctors can learn from you? I was out to lunch with my friend Deb the other day and she flashed me her DMU body donor card, which was near. Campus holds a memorial for body donors annually, too, which is coming up. (More info here.)

3. Mark your calendar for Mini Med School. This five-week public program in late winter presents interesting topics in healthcare. I’ll be responsible for it next year, so you can bet I’ll post some reminders and details about 2015 topics. (More info here.)

4. Make an appointment at the Clinic. If you move to a new city as an adult, the process of selecting a healthcare provider can feel daunting. Did you know the DMU Clinic offers comprehensive family medicine services, all in the same building, just a hop and skip from downtown. In addition to family medicine, there’s also a running and cycling clinic, and physical therapy offers pilates and yoga and other services.

5. For the kids: Girls in Science or Exploring Post 141. Girls in Science is an annual opportunity for “tween” girls to explore careers in medicine. There’s typically a waiting list! For high school boys and girls, we have Exploring Post 141, which meets Tuesday evenings twice a month during the school year for lectures and hands-on activities covering a variety of professions. I got to see the group practice scrubbing in like surgeons earlier this month.


6. I’m also in the midst of planning for summer Jumpstart, a chance for K-12 students in the metro to receive free school physicals. DMU students, faculty and local physicians all volunteer their time to help out. This year’s event is Saturday, July 26. We need LOTS of volunteers, so if you want to help out at registration or as an interpreter, there are lots and lots of non-medical jobs, too. Details here.

7. Senior Health Fair. This year’s event will be Saturday, November 1. We have dozens of vendors and lots of health screening opportunities on campus for seniors. Best part? It’s free! DMU also has a SHIIP program (Senior Health Insurance Information Program) that provides confidential service of the State of Iowa that helps Iowans make informed decisions about Medicare and other health coverage. 

8. Friend and follow DMU. To keep up with campus happenings (there are a LOT! The other weekend we hosted an LGBT health conference, a health fair for people with disabilities and a healthy cooking class through Des Moines Community Education), and to read some of our University magazine stories and features on the awesome people in the DMU community, “like” DMU on Facebook. DMU is on twitter @desmoinesuniv, too.

P.S. Des Moines University trains more than future doctors. There are nine degree programs: osteopathic medicine, anatomy, biomedical sciences, podiatric medicine, physician assistant studies, physical therapy, post-professional physical therapy, public health (<– which is an online program) and health care administration.

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New job news

I hinted that I was wrapping up with “I Have a Dream” and moving on to a new step in my career, but wanted to make sure I had my official welcome letter in hand before I made an announcement. (Also, I messed up the first iron-transfer onesie attempt for sharing the news.)

I’m off to med school! Well, kind of… It’s not as a student.


I’m joining Des Moines University as Community Relations Manager at the end of March! My role will involve spearheading DMU sponsored events,  community service initiatives, the DMU Mobile Clinic, some social media engagement (give them a like!) and I’m sure a lot of other duties I have yet to discover.

A few fun facts about DMU:

  • DMU is the largest medical school in Iowa with approximately 841 students in the osteopathic college and 1,800 total enrollment with three colleges offering nine graduate degrees.
  • Founded in 1898, DMU is the second oldest osteopathic school in the country.
  • DMU is one of the top 20 largest medical schools (for D.O.s or M.D.s) in the nation, out of 155 schools.
  • The very first medical class in 1898 included both sexes and today 54% of the student body are women.
  • 66% of students are recruited from outside Iowa.

I’m looking forward to the challenge, but I will miss spending Fridays with this face:


Thankfully, Joe is switching his schedule so he’ll take over the home front on that day. And his sister sold their house! We’re hoping they’ll be moving to our side of town very soon. Anyone know of great 4-bedroom homes in the North of Grand/Waveland area that haven’t hit the market yet? We’re daydreaming about dropping Emmett off by bike and then riding to work together. I’d say that so many things are going right at the moment, the next thing I need to focus on is health and fitness. I think working in a wellness-centered environment like DMU will definitely help!


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A fancy $10 dinner in Des Moines

Don’t you love finding “hidden gem” spots? I used to stumble upon a lot of great places in my Juice magazine reporting days, but it’s been awhile. This week, I got to experience the amazing dinner deal at the DMACC Culinary Institute. Students prepare and serve what might just be the fanciest $10 three-course meal in the metro at the Bistro. (The Culinary Institute is on the DMACC Ankeny campus in a conference center building. Reservations are required.)


We hosted the  “I Have a Dream” mentor appreciation dinner at the bistro on Wednesday night, and it was a great place to provide the kids with training in good table manners. We were able to have a semi-private area partitioned off and Tyson from Dardis Communications put together a dining etiquette program for us. Even I learned something new: Apparently you’re supposed to spoon your soup away from you? Can’t take me anywhere.

The etiquette focus also meant I couldn’t spend the evening snapping photos of the gourmet food. I’ll have to use my words to convince you. We started with a garden salad that featured a decoratively cut deviled egg and fresh shredded carrots, onions, peanuts and other goodies atop a bed of various greens. I ordered pork osso bucco, which arrived terrifically tender on a plate pooled with a rich, brothy gravy. On the side were a white (jasmine?) rice and carrots cooked with cinnamon. The dessert was cheesecake or a berry pie. Our group didn’t order wine, but it’s available for $5 a glass.

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 7.58.59 PM

Quite the menu for $10, I’d say! The ICI also has options for lunch and a $90 gourmet dinner, which I’ve heard is quite the experience.

The dinner itself was delicious, but for me, the occasion was bittersweet. After the last bite of cheesecake, I let my Dreamer friends know I’m starting a new job in March. I hate goodbyes, but I know that because I live in the neighborhood, I’ll continue to see the students.


The Des Moines “I Have a Dream” Foundation has opened up the Des Moines community for me. I’ve met some really great kids, mentors, board members, donors and community partners through my work. I’m excited for my next adventure!


Filed under Des Moines Dining, I love Des Moines

Be there: YNPN Des Moines 1st birthday

I’m incredibly proud to be part of the leadership team that’s worked to get the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) Des Moines off the ground over the past year and a half. Yes, that’s me, ginormously preggers, standing on a chair trying to get everyone’s attention for announcements at our Super Swag Social in late May. I got everyone’s attention. Ha.


Building this organization has been one of the more intense exercises in collaboration/delegation and such a lesson in what awesomeness can happen when you trust a group of enthusiastic people to run with their ideas. I’ve learned so much from the team of volunteers who’ve all put in crazy hours to plan events and get our organizational documents in order.


We celebrate the one-year anniversary of our official launch this month! If you work in nonprofits, want to work in nonprofits or feel like meeting idealist-type people and having a good time, please join us at our 1st Birthday Bash on Tuesday, Jan. 14 at Jasper Winery.

Learn more:

ynpnDesMoines website 
ynpnDesMoines on Facebook
ynpnDesMoines on Twitter

YNPN National 

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Thank you, Sheryl Sandberg

I picked up my copy of “Lean In” from the Drake Human Resources department on Friday, fully committed to reading the introduction in preparation for a staff book club, but feeling like I might not have the time to delve much deeper for now. But once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. Each chapter, I found myself either exclaiming YES! or chortling with self-recognition at things I might not be approaching in the best way. It felt like Sandberg had heard all of my angsting from the past three years and told me to pour myself a big cup of tea and pull up a chair for a heart-to-heart.


Before actually cracking the book, my impression of “Lean In” had me feeling conflicted. Here I am, almost eight months pregnant, about to graduate with my Master of Public Administration degree and ambition that’s conflated with the realization that I really enjoy my life right now, with a very flexible and not super stressful full-time job and a co-chair role in launching a new young professional group and as an idea-bouncer-offer with TEDxDesMoines. Even though I’m not technically on track for a “senior role” in my organization (we’re a small office of four), does what I’m doing count as “leaning in”? And at what point does leaning in lead to toppling over onto my face?

womens brain browser

There was no better time for me to pick this book up. Sandberg had me from her opening anecdote, in which she is very pregnant (she gained 70 pounds!) and waddling into the building from a far-away parking spot. I appreciated how she alternates between macro-level data about women in the workforce/societal barriers to women in leadership and personal stories from her inner circle. She also includes passages that show she she is well aware she’s speaking from a point of privilege and that not all women are in the same economical situation and that not all women desire a C-suite career. These are all personal choices. But these choices also impact culture.

I read the book as a listener this first time, but feel like I’ll go back through and highlight especially poignant passages during the next pass. I see myself revisiting “Lean In” more than once at different stages. It’s definitely brought me more clarity in this pregnancy phase of life than any “What to Expect” type book on parenting. I’ll be checking out the content on LeanIn.org, too.

Sandberg shares a handful of the anecdotes in her TED talk, which is like the Cliff Notes version of the book:

The main topics that resonated with me at this moment had to do with mentorship, guilt/the myth of doing it all, and her “don’t leave before you leave” plea.

Mentorship: When I’d interview successful professionals as a staff writer for Juice, it seemed like everyone had a fabulous mentor who’d helped prepare and advocate for them to get to that point. I felt like if I could just find that one mentor who would square my shoulders toward a particular path, this was the secret ingredient. Reading “Lean In,” I realized that a mentor isn’t a fairy godmother, or even someone who you necessarily get together with for a monthly chat. (That’s a therapist, she writes.) If I want to approach higher-level people, I need to have a specific organizational question or problem and avoid asking about work-life balance and those generalities. I can’t be like the bird, asking “Are you my mentor?” or plead with puppydog eyes Invest In Me. In reality, I have lots of people I trust for advice on issues or problems, many of whom are my peers and collaborators.

Guilt/Doing it all: Sandberg spend a whole chapter on how important a supportive partner is for a woman’s ability to “lean in.” Joe and I went into our marriage with a very clear 50/50 split kind of mentality, although I will admit that especially when grad school has been in session, he’s done the lion’s share of housework. He’s a much better cook, but I need to remember that he appreciates it when I at least make an effort, even if the outcome is not gourmet. Obviously, with the baby there are things I will be biologically more equipped to handle, but I think we’ll be able to come up with a system that shares the responsibilities associated with parenting. Joe and I are also super-lucky that his sister is a childcare provider, and after maternity leave, the plan is that she will take JamJam while we’re at work. (Don’t worry, we’re paying her!) I have no desire to be an at-home mom; I think I lack the special kind of patience required. When we were discussing this possibility, I hesitated, though. Sandberg describes a scene in which her child reaches for a nanny for comfort instead of her, and the stabbing hurt that sent through her. I wasn’t sure I would have the grace to swallow that jealousy-tinged guilt if we were at a family party and our child reached for his or her aunt instead of me. I just have to remind myself that she’s a pro with babies and how lucky I am to have my child in the care of someone I trust completely.

Not leaving before I leave: I think I’ve probably done a little bit of this, in forecasting my potential inability to be involved in certain things because of the baby coming — primarily because I don’t want to disappoint people. Flaky behavior frustrates me, so I don’t want to make commitments I am not sure I can follow through on. Vague opportunities have presented themselves and I’ve passed because I’m not sure what my post-baby life will look like. I’ve told my friend Alexander that I might “go dark” (a phrase we’ve adopted for when people who used to be engaged stop responding to e-mails for awhile) for a few months during maternity leave. I want to be intentional and present in the time I spend on work/organizations I’m a part of and intentional and present in the time I spend with my family. This is increasingly hard in our plugged-in world, but the family-oriented culture in Des Moines makes it seem more do-able than I’m guessing it would be in a D.C. or L.A. I think the lesson here was that if I really want a seat at a certain table, Joe and I will need to do as Tim Gunn says and “Make it work.”

I first “took a seat at the table” as president of our 3rd grade classroom’s two clubs: Speakers Club and Kindness Club, which involved organizing programming for Friday lunchtime – an experience that both resulted in my first ever memory of being stressed and several proud moments of helping my classmates. When I was in eighth grade, I ran for Student Advisory Council President (slogan: Spirit is the Key, Vote for Bri!) and lost, but as Secretary, ended up doing most of the work. (I still remember my mom sharing the “Behind every great man is a great woman” quote with me and how the idea raised my hackles. Why couldn’t the woman be in the front?) In high school, I served as Social Chair, planning dances as a member of student government and as co-editor of the yearbook. In college, I was a Residence Hall Advisor, student supervisor for dining services and a campus tour leader. Some people may have thought – and called – me bossy. It’s not that I had a huge desire to Be In Charge of All the Things, but I typically haven’t been shy about pulling up a chair and sharing my ideas.

Here’s what that little early life CV boils down to: I don’t want my “lean in” days to have peaked as a teen. I’m not saying I have Sandberg’s brilliance and acumen, but I am trying to take feedback and develop myself into a more likeable leader (back in the day I may have been referred to as “dictator” of yearbook). A couple of my past interns have reached out to me in the past few weeks with a quick/random thanks, so I feel like I might be on the right path.

Right now is the point in the “marathon” Sandberg describes, where internal and external voices shift from cheering a woman on and instead send messages like “You don’t have to do this!” or worse. But using the Harvard Business School definition of leadership Sandberg shares, I know I want to Lean In.

Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.


Filed under Books, Life lessons

Post-it Power

I’m the kind of person who needs to get her thoughts down on paper as fast as possible. Otherwise, they tend to float out of my skull like tiny balloons.

My work spaces are always littered with scraps of paper. Items scribbled onto Post-it notes are like tiny task hills that make up a bigger work routine. I love conquering them and then peeling them off the desk. I also have a “wall of random ideas” that gets populated every so often with post-its when I come up with something bigger that could work later.

Maybe you’ve seen this doing the Pinterest rounds, but I like this rotating goal list idea from Cornflower Blue Studio.

I could also see making one for workouts, especially since this morning was Day 1 of half marathon training for me and Joe. After all of my indulging this weekend, the three mile run was much-needed, but it’s going to take awhile to get used to pre-dawn exercising.

I scrolled through the Cornflower Blue Studio blog and was tickled by all of the coral reef-inspired crochet. It reminds me of a TED talk I posted awhile back linking crochet with coral through hyperbolic geometry. (It’s mind-blowing.)

Back on the post-it track, though, last week we had an awesome staff meeting where the five of us wrote down all of our duties on little post-its, which we arranged into different sections of the organization (Foundation, school, board, community partners, misc.) so we could visualize where everyone is concentrated. We each used our own color so it was easy to see who did what.

It definitely wasn’t about competing to see who had the most Post-its, but it helped us see where our efforts are focused and where we might be overlapping or able to help each other out. We have a very small staff and with me new to the team and one team member recently having transitioned roles, I think it was a neat exercise. We also used those giant post-its to write down the things that excite us about the organization, the things that keep us up at night worrying, crazy long-term ideas and what services our constituents need in order to succeed. I left feeling mentally organized and energized.

Lastly, who could write a post about post-its without linking to this classic scene?

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