The Composition

Happy New… wait, what year is it again?

It was a childhood tradition to take some time at the end of each year to think about the year that was. It was a time to consider lessons learned and to practice gratitude.

Over the years, I’ve shared this tradition with my students. It might be a little schmaltzy, maybe dramatic – but, what tradition isn’t?

This year – as the pandemic, and the turbulence and chaos wore on – it was a little harder to gather my thoughts. But, traditions must go on. Please see my message below.

What year is it again? It was another year of pandemic, filled with continued (and worsening) rage, death tolls, natural disasters, polarization.

And let’s be honest, it doesn’t seem like there’s any resolution to that on the horizon.

But every year, and every era, has its challenges. These are ours. And each year is an opportunity, not only to take stock and re-evaluate, but to consider our own journey. Who are we? What have we done? And most importantly, what will we do with the hand we’re dealt?

So yes, 2021 was not the year we hoped it would be. But I know that in spite of all the hardships, we’ve all had experiences and lessons to be grateful for. We’ve accepted new opportunities (personal and professional). After some introspection, we’ve made big changes.

Many of you have moved or married, gotten engaged, begun new ventures. Some, like me, have decided to close a chapter. These are all milestones to celebrate.

In closing, as 2021 comes to an end, I will take the opportunity to think back and take stock, not just on the last 12 months, but on the months and years that preceded it. They led us here to this moment, but also – and more importantly – to one another.

And so, I am happy.

Our job isn’t to understand the meaning of our struggles and the catastrophes that surround us, but to “imagine Sisyphus happy.” To carry on.

Own your boulder.

“The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart.”

Happy new year and may 2022 be better, healthier, and kinder.

Almost Everything I Know, I’ve learned in a Classroom – My Own.

Almost everything I know, I learned in a classroom – My Own

It was 16 years ago that I first stepped foot in that classroom. It was the result of an impulsive decision. I wanted to change the world, make it better. On a whim, I applied for teaching credentials from the state then faxed my resume to three schools. Two weeks later, I was sitting with a thousand other people in a hotel conference space for New Teacher Orientation. A week after that, I was setting up my classroom, studying textbooks, writing lesson plans, designing a curriculum. 

Ten years ago, I became the Region I Teacher of the Year. A lot has changed since then, even the school region’s name and boundaries — it’s now the North Region.

It was all a whirlwind of activity. Every year is. And a classroom is a home away from home.

Teaching changes how one views the world. Our very perception of time is altered; it’s faster, determined by the school calendar: quarters and semesters, progress reports, standardized tests. A teacher’s year isn’t twelve months long, it’s nine. 

There is always a clear beginning and a definitive end. At the end of each year — even a really bad year — there is always a sense of hope, joy, nostalgia. After all, each school year always ends in graduation, a commencement, a celebration of what was and of the possibilities that lie ahead.

Always, I felt ready to do it all again: to teach literature and writing, yes, but also to push students to think critically, to look closer, to push them to achieve more than they thought they could, to dream and, more importantly, to believe in their ability to achieve those dreams – and then to dream bigger.

Over the years, I’ve watched these kids grow up and thrive academically, personally, professionally. I’ve cheered them on as they achieve greater milestones. I’ve attended college graduations and weddings, proofread graduate school applications and resumes. We’ve built a team, an extended family.

They have inspired me.

That is, of course, the great irony. I wanted to change the world. I never anticipated how much my students would change me. (Related: What have I learned this year? Teaching is Hard)

I learned about perseverance and tenacity, about team-building, about the impact of socio-economic disparities. I learned, and continue to learn, about pop culture and evolving language (slang and colloquialism are – after all – the evolution of our language). I’ve learned that we often underestimate young people, that we don’t spend enough time listening to them or acknowledging their viewpoints, but we do spend a lot of time projecting our own apprehensions and expectations on them. I’ve learned just how meaningful and impacting it can be to have someone in your corner, someone that believes in you. I’ve learned just how few kids have that.

In short, I have learned every day.

Their energy is electrifying, even the cynicism that Gen Zers are so known for is not totally devoid of hope. On the contrary, they possess an astounding amount of optimism, a sincere belief that they can be agents of change, that we have the ability to fix our problems, that even in the absurdity of the present moment, there is joy.


Another version of this essay was published on the PBS NewsHour Extra, Educator’s Voice. Read it here:

To the Class of 2021: Resilience

The lotus flower is everywhere: novels, films, tattoos. I never really thought about why that was. But recently, I read about a Buddhist ceremony where they pieced together a broken, porcelain lotus flower. They glued it together, a painstaking process, and then rather than sanding down the glue and painting over it, they accentuated the cracks with gold paint.

They weren’t trying to hide the cracks, they wanted to accentuate them – show them off, celebrate them.

“Our liberation,” they said, “is not about transcending or distancing ourselves from trauma or pain and suffering, but in acknowledging it.”

That struck me. After all, as a people, we spend so much time in trying to get over things, to bury our grief, forget our heartbreak, ignore our disappointments.

What if that’s what keeps us from growing?

I looked into this idea, and into the imagery and I learned that the lotus flower is actually one of the oldest religious symbols. It symbolizes, among other things, regeneration and enlightenment. They are one of the oldest living organisms, they can tolerate extreme heat and extreme cold, even having survived the Ice Age. Their seeds can live for thousands of years without water.

In fact, they can thrive almost anywhere, floating on ponds and rivers, embedding their roots deep into the mud below. Each night, the flowers disappear, submerging themselves into the murky water and then reappearing each morning, perfectly clean.

Lotus flowers are common in literature, myth, and art. They are also one of the oldest religious symbols, representing rebirth and enlightenment.

The religiosity is obvious: the imagery of rebirth and resurrection. But it is also a testament to faith and renewal, to the flower’s refusal to be defeated, taking the nutrients it needs to grow and flourish, without succumbing to the darkness below.

Maybe the analogy is a little heavy-handed, perhaps kind of cliché. But it’s been on my mind a lot lately — as we approach the end of this school year, the end of this pandemic — especially when I think of all of you, and of us, and what we’ve lived and seen and lost. And I think again of our tendency to either embrace escapism or defeat, hiding our scars or keeping our wounds open and wallowing in that suffering.

We can’t erase our stories. We can’t ever defeat our demons. Instead, we learn to accept what is.

People keep talking about a return to normal, as though that’s something that we could ever achieve. We can’t return to normal. We can certainly rebuild and bounce back, but we’ll never have the lives that we were supposed to have. We’ll never have those moments, those experiences, those milestones. We’ll never become the people that we would have been.

Instead, this was our path. This was not the year that we wanted or the one that we expected. It has been a dark time in our history – for so many reasons. That’s part of my concern for all of you. There are so many problems in the world. And there are so many things that you’ll face.

How will you respond to them? To quote Hemingway, “the world breaks everyone.” What will you do at those moments?

You could choose anger. It’s certainly easier to rage against the world and everyone around you.

You could give in to despair, give up and give in. That can be tempting.

You could become numb and cynical, choosing the quiet comfort of apathy.

I hope that you don’t. I hope that you’ll get back up, tend to your wounds, and find that “afterward [you] are strong[er] at the broken places,” ready to go on with the messy business of living.

I hope that you take solace in what you learned this year. You can adapt. You can survive. You can emerge stronger and wiser than you ever thought that you could be. You can absolutely help make the world better.

I hope that you do.

I hope that you aspire to serve a purpose greater than you, that you choose to give back. But you must remember that first and foremost, you have to learn the lessons that are meant for you. To be self-aware means doing the work of unpacking all of who we are — not just our best intentions but also our most destructive tendencies — of acknowledging our flaws and shortcomings. Only then can we begin the work of being better.

To survive, to thrive and bloom, we need to be tested. The murky darkness threatens to submerge us, envelop us, but it also nourishes us, makes us stronger and more resilient.

As we close out this year, as you look forward to new adventures and new challenges, remember that your scars, literal and figurative, are nothing to be ashamed of. They are a testament to your victories. Learn from them.

Remember: you can, and you will. I believe in you.

A dive into despair — I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Everything about Charlie Kaufman’s movie, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, indicates that we’ve entered a crisis. The characters are in crisis. The couple’s relationship is in crisis. And, a storm is approaching.

The cold distance is palpable from the beginning. We are all trapped in the car, as a storm rages

But, what kind of storm?

As the film opens, we see a spot of color in an otherwise bleak winter day. A young woman with vibrant red curls, also dressed in bright red and yellow, stands on the sidewalk waiting for Jake, her boyfriend, to pick her up.

She is warm and vibrant, a highlight in the otherwise cold, snow covered street. He is in black, his skin so pale and lifeless that he almost blends into the snow outside his car window.

Almost immediately, the audience senses trouble. This relationship is doomed. The young woman has told us as much, as we hear her think, “I’m thinking of ending things.”

What follows is a dark, complex, winding story. An old farmhouse, in the middle of nowhere, complete with a scary basement. Death and decay is everywhere: dead sheep, the dead of winter, the frequent mention of hell. We know something is coming, we expect a ghost or a killer or the evil to emerge. But, it doesn’t.

Warning, spoilers ahead

It turns out that we are all watching a fantasy: the projection of a lonely janitor who doesn’t seem to matter to anyone. He roams the high school, tidying up, watching teenagers sing, and dance, and live.

Jake is that janitor. Cleaning the high school he attended, and living out a dream sequence.

But this dream provides little relief. In fact, even in this fantasy that he has created, even his imaginary girlfriend, he is inadequate and unwanted.

That is the tragedy at the heart of this story.

Jake is alone. He never had the courage, the confidence, or the opportunity to live the life he wanted to. And here he is, grasping to understand where it all went wrong. Maybe it was the night that he wasn’t brave enough to ask a girl he saw at a bar for her phone number.

Maybe she was the one that got away.

But how can anyone know that? He can’t. He doesn’t even know her name, which is why her name, her clothes, her job, keeps changing throughout the film. If he could only bring her home at the right time – when his parents were young, or maybe when they were old, maybe some time in between? Maybe then, it could have worked. Maybe then he could have had it all.

But Jake doesn’t believe that. Whether her name is Lucy or Louise, whether she is a physicist or a poet, she would never love him. At least, he doesn’t believe she would.

Even in Jake’s imagination, he is never good enough. Like his mother said, he is – at best – diligent,” but not special, not talented, possesses no special abilities.

He can’t go back and change the choices that he made. Worse, he doesn’t really believe he could ever have the life and love he craves.

There is a lot to analyze and unpack in this film. The lighting, the scenery, the flowers that always surround and adorn Jakes girlfriend. But, at the heart of it all is a man’s aching lonelines and despair. The audience is a voyeur, deep inside his psyche, watching him try to work it all out, watching as he tries to find where he went wrong, trying to decide who he could have been.

Jakes girlfriend is often surrounded or adorned with flowers. Here, she stands in front of a backdrop, a stage. After all, she is an actress in this drama.

Ultimately, he gives in to his despair.

Generation X is Unpacking a Whole Lot of Childhood Drama and Disney/Pixar Films Prove it

Normally, I don’t watch much television. I rarely go to the movies. So I did not have much experience with Disney/Pixar films.

Up Poster

The waterworks start early in Disney/Pixar’s Up

But, with pandemic going on and all this time indoors, even I gave in.

Apparently, I am not alone.

While countless companies bleed money throughout the COVID19 crisis, streaming services are gaining ground. Recent reports show that although Disney lost billions since from park closures, their stock value rose as they announced over 100 million subscribers to their streaming services.

After catching up with over a decade of these Disney/Pixar films, I came to a few realizations. First, this generation of animated film makers — Generation X and maybe some older millennials — that have taken the reigns, have a much sharper focus on story telling. From Finding Nemo to Brave, the stories are well developed. Dynamic and complex characters go on heroic journeys of self-discovery. They manage to flesh out narratives that captivate viewers – young and old – with a dose of magic, emotion, and silliness.

But, the most obvious discernible fact is that Gen Xers are messed up. They are unpacking a whole lot of childhood trauma and they are taking all of us along on their emotional rollercoasters. From Inside Out to Onward, one thing is clear: they want us to cry, and I mean ugly cry.

This kind of sadism can only be born of personal suffering. The GenXers that are writing and producing movies now are deeply unhappy.

Whereas the classic Disney movies incited plenty of tears, they were of a different type.

Finding Nemo

Death strikes early in Finding Nemo, but that’s not the end of the tears.

Yes, there was danger, death and suffering. But, Snow White and Cinderella, even the 90s cartoons like Aladdin and The Lion King were different. In those, there was a clear-cut villain. There was a specific perpetrator that represented evil. There was the underlying message that we live in a cruel and unjust world, that those we trust the most can, and will, hurt us.

But in Pixar movies, our misery comes from within. The stories delve into the collective unconscious, triggering our own memories and bringing our own apprehensions to the surface.

In Toy Story, after growing up with Woody and facing down death and catastrophe time

Toy Story

Andy is off to college. Bonnie doesn’t need him. Who is Woody without a kid? 

and again, he finds himself—forgotten and unwanted, trying to figure out what to do with his life, who he is and what his purpose is after his kid leaves him behind. And, whether the child is two or eighteen, what parent hasn’t wondered the same thing?

Each film ultimately delves into these crises: the search for happiness and identity, our growing pains, the search for meaning.

In Up, the waterworks start early. Within the first five minutes, the audience meets young Carl and Ellie. We are there with them as they fall in love, marry, and grow old together. We are there, in the hospital room when Ellie dies. We are alone with Carl as he grapples with his grief and wonders if he let Ellie down, never fulfilling her thirst for adventure. And then there’s Russell, a lonely kid who misses his dad and yearns for his attention, but can’t even call him because Phyllis, presumably his stepmom, says that Russell “bugs him too much.”

These are deep wounds for Gen Xers. They came of age watching a whole other type of tragedy. Not only are they now caring for their parents while also sending their own children to college, they are still coping with their own childhood trauma. They are the first generation to really suffer through their parents’ divorces. Their parents, the Baby Boomers, divorced in record (and still unparalleled) numbers. As Boomers searched for fulfillment – in both their career and personal life ­– their children often felt left behind. These were, after all, the latch key children who watched and suffered the unintended consequences of their parents’ crises.

These movies are a way of working through and expressing it.


In Coco we face life, death and family.

Pixar films delve deep into the psyche and shine a light on what lingers there: our own baggage: our own losses and gains. They force us to face all the changes and losses yet to come, ultimately the ephemerality of life itself.

It is said that misery loves company. Box office profits prove that while GenXers may be profoundly unhappy, but they are certainly not alone.

Books that everyone should read

With the pandemic raging and social distancing orders in place, people are spending far more time at home. And, in spite of Books Imageour 21st century technological dependencies, it is the old world habits that have brought us the most comfort. From baking and cooking to reading, we’ve rediscovered the joy of slowing down.

Another habit that can provide a temporary escape from the dystopian conflicts we’re experiencing right now — reading.

Far too often, people associate reading with homework: the late night assignments, annotating textbooks, digesting information and regurgitating it for exams. Those anxiety-leaden memories can keep people, especially students, from reading for the sheer pleasure of it.

It’s also true that many of the greatest, most celebrated works of fiction are actually pretty bleak. Most of our favorite novels explore big questions: free will versus fate, morality, heartbreak and suffering, death and destruction.

And yet exploring these ideas, the fundamental nature of humanity, helps us.

So when my graduating seniors asked for book recommendations, so that they could continue reading – for fun – I wondered what to recommend. Novels or nonfiction, classics or contemporary literature?

I decided on all of the above.

There are many lists of classics that everyone should read or of the 100 best books of the last 100 years. This is not that kind of list.

I polled friends and colleagues and even posted the question on Twitter. I loved the

books tweet

The question posed on Twitter, “What books should everyone read?” drew a lot of suggestions. Scroll through the recommendations

response, and encourage everyone to look through the thread and reply with their own suggestions here.

There are great suggestions on this list, ranging from young adult novels and contemporary fiction to well-established canonical works. Most importantly, it’s a glimpse at what people are reading and thinking and the enthusiasm that we share for great stories.

Here is the curated list — including classics and newer works, both fiction and non-fiction.­­­

1984 by George Orwell

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Beloved by Toni Morrison.

Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

Crime And Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

The Grapes Of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Go Tell it On the Mountain by James Baldwin

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Our Mathematical Universe by Max Tegmark

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

The Stranger by Albert Camus

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Revolutionary Road Richard Yates

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

This is definitely not an exhaustive list and, surely, there will be titles here that some will disagree with. Please scroll through the suggestions on Twitter and add your own.


Dark: the suffering ends where it began

Once again, humanity’s fate rests on the shoulders of teenagers, and their ability, and willingness to save it .

Dark Season 3

Alpha & Omega, the beginning and the end. The third and final season of the Netflix Original series ties, and finally unties, the story.

Waiting for a set of principled young people to save the world from destructive and monstrous forces, often in spite of adults’ misdeeds, is a popular trope whose popularity increases sharply at times of geopolitical, economic, and domestic strife – like right now.

Many of the typical elements of this type of story are present: the philandering husband and absent father, teen angst, rebellion and unrequited love; but that is where the similarities end.

Dark, the Netflix Original German series gaining a cult following in the United States, is – as its name suggests – dark. The environment is bleak. Days are cold and rainy, colors are dull and muted, and most conversations take place at night, in the shadows of artificial light.

Faith, physics and free will

The series opens with Jonas, a teen struggling with depression as he tries to understand and cope with his father’s suicide. Martha, his former love interest, has no idea that Jonas’s “vacation” was actually a stay at a mental hospital and is now dating Jonas’s best friend. After introducing us to some tragedy, two very biblical names and an emerging love triangle, the show quickly introduces viewers to a set of deeply flawed and unhappy residents of a small town named Winden.

Their world is turned upside down after a young boy goes missing – and the body of another young boy that went missing 33 years earlier, mysteriously appears. Four families, with deep roots in this town, begin desperately searching for answers.

Birds fall dead from the sky, time travel, and an approaching apocalypse

Dark is complex and challenges viewers to do some mental gymnastics, just to keep up. It can be difficult to remember the characters: who they are, when they are and how they are all related.

Through it all, viewers are forced to confront big questions on morality and philosophy, faith,the role of free will, and the nature of time itself.

The third and final season, Alpha & Omega, which was released at the beginning of the month, ties it all together. Like the title implies, what unfolds is a Greek-style tragedy.

Our protagonists and, by extension, humanity – just can’t let go. Season three repeats that idea again and again. Jonas can’t let go of Martha. Martha can’t stop hoping to save Jonas and her world. Hannah won’t let go of Ulrich, married or not. Claudia won’t stop let her daughter die.

It is in our nature to pursue our desires, to protect the ones that we love, to fight for survival. And it is in our nature to rationalize our actions – no matter how cruel – as justified and necessary evils.

Throughout the series, Jonas and Martha fight to save the world they know, the people that they love, and one another. It drove them, along with all our time travelling cast of characters, to commit heinous acts and cause immense suffering.

It is here that the series dives deep into the darkest parts of our psyche. It dares us to consider how our younger selves, that idealistic albeit naïve fresh-faced version of ourselves, would feel about the person we have become? How would she feel about the choices we made, the life we built, and everything we left in our wake?

Martha becomes Eva

Eva, scarred and stoic confronts her younger self, determined that history repeat itself in perpetuity.

That is what drives this tragedy. When confronted with their future selves, both Jonas and Martha vow to avoid their fates, to change the course of events, to never become these monsters that committed unbelievable atrocities. But like a Grecian tragic hero, the more they fight, the more faithfully they recreate their dark destiny.

It is the struggle against evil that propels them towards it.

So it is striking that, at the end of it all, it is Jonas’s future self – transformed, literally and figuratively scarred and disfigured from his lifelong journey through time and space –

Jonas is transformed

Jonas is warped, disfigured, disillusioned. He is so consumed with guilt and self-hate that he projects it onto the world,seeking to destroy it all.

that tells him: “there is still a way for you to prevent becoming me.” It is too late for Adam, the fitting name that the adult Jonas adopts, to find redemption. He has spent too much time in the darkness: seen and done too much, carried too much blood on his hands, and has lost it all as a result.

It is only young Jonas and Martha — our star-crossed lovers — who can save humanity, and save themselves from who they will become if they don’t. But to do this, to save a universe that they had no idea existed, they have to surrender everything for a world that will never know their sacrifice.

And they do it, unquestioningly and unflinchingly.

As they fade away, teary-eyed and shivering, it is fair to ask why they had to, why any young person should have to sacrifice it all for the sins and the suffering that they inherit.

Voting Makes Me Nervous, Excited, Anxious

Election Day is exciting. It’s a ritual, trying to avoid eye contact and scurry past all of the politicians, campaign workers and people camped outside trying to convince people which way to vote.

There’s always an energy that almost emanates from the precinct. People stand in line – sometimes in long lines – confident, proud, and determined to contribute to the democratic experiment.

I am always nervous. I check for my license and voter’s registration several times before leaving the house. I carry an extra photo ID, extra pens, a hand-written list of how I plan to vote.

When I finally get to the voting booth, alone with my ballot, my heart races a little. I take a deep breath, absorb the gravity of the moment, and prepare to fill in my choices.

Politics has always been emotional: heated, partisan, negative; but, today’s political climate is so much worse, so much uglier, polarizing, violent.

That’s the backdrop of today’s vote: the weight I feel on my shoulders as I try to decide which candidate is best equipped to deal with our current reality, the pressure I feel trying navigate through the twelve confusing, complicated amendments, county and city referendums.

I have done my research. I read the newspaper, visited websites, thought through the options, talked them over.

And still, as i bubble in my choices, I’m nervous.

I finish, review my ballot, assuring that the bubbles are shaded in completely, that I’ve answered each question, that I selected the correct candidates. This too is, perhaps obsessive, trauma leftover from the “hanging chad” presidential election in 2000.

Then I feed my ballot into a machine — and wait.

I wonder, does everyone feel this kind of anxiety, excitement, pressure? If they do, they don’t talk about it.

Maybe it is just me, my own baggage – a first-generation American, the child of Cuban exiles that left everything behind in search of freedom and opportunity.

My father cherished his right to vote. It was a right that he never took for granted. My grandmother never learned to drive. After my grandfather passed away, she took a bus to the voting precinct.

There is something special about voting, especially when one has lived through the condemnation of free expression, the end of democratic elections, the criminalization of a free and independent press.

I don’t know if my own nervous energy, the pressure and sense of responsibility, is learned or whether – somehow – it is in my DNA, inherited from my family’s struggle.

That may be it. I vote because I can. And because I can, I must, not just for me, but in honor of everyone who could not.

This is Not Your Mother’s Feminism — or is it? #MeToo and the Generational Divide

The #MeToo Movement galvanized women. From Los Angeles to Shanghai, from Hollywood studios to board rooms and political office, women are sharing their stories of sexual harassment and assault.  And it has inspired a huge wave of activism that shows no signs of slowing. 

However, some analysts say that as much as this new wave of feminism has brought women together, it has also caused a rift.

According to an Associated Press story, there is a generational divide in the public’s reactions to the #MeToo movement.

“Millennial women,” it said “are more likely to have grown up in environment supportive of gender equality, with the expectation — not always fulfilled — that they’ll be attentively listened to in those circumstances.”

It was an interesting thought. Women, according to this piece, are not only fighting for a seat at the table, they expect it. It’s uplifting. It’s believing that we are at the actual precipice of change.

But, is it true?

Jade Hameister skied around the North Pole, across Greenland’s largest icecap, and then around South Pole. It took her 37 days to complete the 373-mile trek, while dragging a 220-pound sled across the rugged, frozen landscape of the Antarctic.

She is sixteen.

Hameister is the youngest person to ever complete the adventure referred to as ‘The Polar Hat Trick’.

That should be the story. She battled harsh winds and extreme temperature to accomplish a feat that few people – of any age – ever will.  She demonstrated incredible resilience, determination, athleticism and tenacity.

But, the story reported in media outlets around the world was not about the high winds, the blizzards or the whiteouts that she faced; it was not about the journey or the training involved to achieve this feat.

No, the story was about her gender. Worse, it was about how she responded to sexist comments on Facebook . She posted a photo of herself and a message: “I skied back to the Pole again… to take this photo for all those men who commented ‘Make me a sandwich’ on my TEDX Talk.” Then added: “I made you a sandwich (ham & cheese), now ski 37 days and 600km to the South Pole and you can eat it.”

This was the story on CNN and Teen Vogue. A snarky response to internet trolls. That was the story that Samantha Power and the Twitter handle Bad Ass Woman Alert shared.

I don’t see a generational divide.

It feels good to taunt a Twitter troll. It’s fun to flaunt one’s success. But, for all the talk of gender equality, for all the social media activism – from #BeBossy to #StrongIsBeautiful to #AskHerMore and #LikeAGirl, social media movements have come and gone, usually to sell makeup or shampoo.

Generational divides exist. They always have. For generations, women have fought for the right to vote, to work, to be heard. Each new fight is built on past victories.

Are there differences of opinion? Differences in philosophy? Certainly. Just as there are differences between mothers and daughters, and even among friends. The bigger question is whether this new wave of feminism is here to stay, whether it will lead to lasting change, or whether it is relegated to the graveyard of forgotten hashtags.

I believe in the power of social media, in the power of movements to spread awareness. I admire the women sharing their #MeToo stories and demanding justice.

But, do I believe that this is the beginning of actual change? We’ll see.

Publix Gets it & People Love Them

There’s been a lot of Publix love shared on social media, especially throughout the last week, and for good reason. Everyone in South Florida knows their sloshy, “where shopping is a pleasure.” And it is. The stores are clean. They have great quality products and excellent customer service. 

What’s not to love?

But there is more to it. Publix works hard to be more than a grocery store; they’ve worked to be a part of the community. All stores have membership rewards. Customers get coupons and stores collect valuable data that they use to market their products. But Publix works to make even that feel like a personalized experience. When I joined the Baby Club, I didn’t just receive age-appropriate discounts, they sent me a pediatric encyclopedia.  

When Hurricane Irma started barreling towards South Florida, Publix opened until the very last moment and many of their stores, including the one in my neighborhood, opened the following day. They emailed customers before the storm and immediately afterwards. They posted a message to the community on social media and took a full-page ad in my local newspaper. Yesterday, they announced that they opened one of the stores in Key West, because the community was counting on them.

We are in this together. That’s Publix’s message. I’ve thought a lot about that over the last few days, and not just because it is my favorite grocery store (which it is), but because it is one of those times when being good also makes good business sense.

Why do people love Publix? They love Publix because the store makes them feel good. Yes, this is good marketing, but it is also good people skills. And making people feel valued, that translates into loyalty.