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Being a Woman in the Workplace, a Summary

True story – 99% of my unpublished drafts circle around what it means to be a woman in the workplace. I’ve written them out of anger, or out of a need for awareness, or sometimes even out of humor. I’ve written them in short bursts, long-form prose, and even (I promise) limericks. I think this is an important point because being a woman in the workplace is a very varied experience. Even my own views morph from day to day or interaction to interaction.

But let’s talk about the Woman Card.

Being a woman in the workplace is a challenge. And I’ve just come to realize that when someone (almost always a man) accuses a human being of using the woman card, it’s because the woman has been offered the usual courtesy and respect that they (almost always a man) has come to expect.


A man is presenting a problem or idea to a group of people. He is given total freedom to speak until he concludes. The group of people asks questions; the man answers. The man is utilizing “team work.”

A woman is presenting a problem or idea to a group of people. She is given total freedom to speak until she concludes. The group of people asks questions; the woman answers. The woman is utilizing “the woman card.”

I’ve watched this. I’ve spent years in the back of the room for meetings, team reviews, program deep-dives, proposal efforts, what have you. I’m in the back of the room by choice; I could lean in and sit at the table, but the back of the room gives me a larger scope of view. I can see more. I can watch the dynamics of the room, and that always speaks just as loud – if not more loudly – than the players in the room. I see body language, unspoken cues, and facial expressions that most miss.

The Woman Card almost always can be reduced to a woman demanding the same time, respect, and attention given to her male counterparts. And the ones quick to point the finger at the “card holder” is naturally opposed to this level of respect being automatically offered.

CAVEAT: just as there are women who are truly awful and use unfair means to gain this basic respect, there are men who offer it without question. I’ve been at this for almost 15 years now. I’ve seen good examples of both.

I could give you a laundry list of scenarios where I’ve watched women try and claim the same level of HUMANITY that their male peers are offered just because of their genitalia, and I’ve seen people accuse them of terrible untruths – they’re obviously sleeping with someone in power, they’ve got dirt on someone, or they’re playing the Woman Card.

Instead, I’m going to insist we all take a step back. If you’re a man, take a breath before you exhale about the Woman Card. Examine what’s actually happening here. And make sure that you’re not part of the reason that it’s still A Thing. If you’re a woman, keep on insisting that you’re equal. Don’t stop pushing. But look at your methodology: make sure you’re not being aggressive beyond reason or purpose. Hear the cadence of your team and match it.

My favorite quotes of all time are relevant every single day that I go to work.

Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition. – Timothy Leary

Well-behaved women rarely make history. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Got a great story to tell where you played your woman card? I’d love to hear them! No, really, I would – let me know I’m not alone. Tell me about the time when an entire meeting stopped to ask you to take minutes, or when they walk past five of your male counterparts to ask you where the coffee was. LET ME KNOW I’M NOT ALONE.

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The Hardest Part of Love

There’s a song in the musical Children of Eden called “The Hardest Part of Love”, where God talks about the hardest part of love being letting go .. of his children, of his control, of everything that happens once free will wanders into the equation.

On Sunday, Belle was clearly not well. She was lethargic and unmoving, which is odd for a 4 year old chocolate lab, and we wondered if she had eaten something that disagreed with her. (Which is not odd for a 4 year old chocolate lab.)

By Sunday night, it was obvious that the not-wellness was worsening. We looked at our meager checking account and thought, “Okay, we’ll take her in to the vet tomorrow.”

I’m not going to lie. When money comes in to the equation of life and death, it is the worst feeling in the world. The fact that we debated how much we could spend on her health made us feel incredibly low. Angry at circumstance (that we arguably have put ourselves in) and low. Helpless, at the least.

The vet suggested we xray her and found some foreign matter in her stomach. They said we could opt for surgery – a monetary commitment we couldn’t wrangle – or just let it pass naturally. We opted for the latter.

Yesterday, I came home at lunch on a hunch and found her in the backyard. It was raining, and she was laying on the furthest point of our property. She growled when I approached her. I’ve had enough dogs in my lifetime to know what was up. I told Bryan it was time to make some decisions.

He took her back to the vet and we figured out financially how to take care of the surgery. The vet seemed optimistic and we jumped on that optimism and ran.

They called two hours later. Once they got in, they realized it was far, far worse than an xray would ever show.

Bryan handed me the phone; it was my call. I listened to the vet explain – with amazing professionalism and compassion – what we faced. Belle’s intestines had twisted on itself, and cut off blood supply to most of her small intestines. On top of that, it had grown around several lesions. Not enough of her intestines were viable. She said Belle had a 20% chance of survival if we continued.. and probably not even that high a chance.

“I can’t have her suffer,” I choked out. “Please don’t let her feel any more pain.”

“I’m so glad you said that,” said the vet, choking up. “I can’t ever recommend that we let an animal go, but if this was my dog, I would recommend the same thing.”

We adopted Belle when she was 6 months old. She had been adopted and returned to the Decatur Animal Hospital, so she was actually available at a reduced rate. She was our Sale Puppy.

She was every bit of why I wanted a lab in our house. She was amazing with the kids, teaching them (always with a soft mouth) when they’d gone too far in playing with her, but always always ALWAYS by their sides. When looking through my pictures of her last night, every single picture of her had a boy on her. She was what I needed when we lost Mabel three years ago: a dog to raise my boys with compassion and empathy.

I write this, obviously, to memorialize this amazing animal but also to implore those of you reading to PLEASE adopt from shelters and rescues. Belle was actually a purebred, but we got her for $25. A lot of animals in the shelters are close to purebred. All of the animals in the shelters deserve a chance. Don’t buy into breeders. Watch the shelters and rescues if you have a breed in mind; jump when you see one available. Rescue a dog.

Let them rescue you.

To my Belle Pepper, who was such a happy nuisance. My sale puppy, whom we would’ve spent a fortune to save, who was taken too soon. To the dog who played Robin to Tony’s Batman and who cuddled with Vinnie whenever he was still. We were so lucky to be your people, Belle. Thank you for .. all of it. Thank you for you.


A boy and his dog, man.

A photo posted by Sarah Lena (@bellasarahlena) on

A photo posted by Sarah Lena (@bellasarahlena) on

A photo posted by Sarah Lena (@bellasarahlena) on


10/EighteenBelle, our baby, in a rare STILL shot for #marchphotoaday

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What Social Media Says About You

I am, by no means, a social media expert. I have, however, been around this sandbox long enough to have noticed a thing or two about how it can be done well, how it can be done gracefully, and how you should never ever do social media.

About two weeks ago, there was this really horrid video that made the rounds called “Dear Fat People” or “What I’d Like to Say to Fat People” or something – the video has been taken down and I wasn’t able to find it when I wrote this. Full disclosure: I didn’t even watch the video. My autoplay on my phone ran it for a second or two, with no sound, and her gestures and animations were such that I thought, Meh, I’m not gonna give this my time.

But yet, the video showed up in my media feed because one of my friends liked it. Not just liked it, mind you, but commented “Yes! I love this!” when she saw it.

That person was my Beachbody coach.

That person has made money off of my being fat.

When Whitney Way Thore (from “My Big Fat Fabulous Life”) posted a response video, THAT I watched. And she did it the right way – using video excerpts from the original to combat the incredibly arrogant, hurtful, and thoughtless things that had been said about fat people. And as I watched it, I couldn’t help thinking, “Gah, my ‘coach’ saw this and thought I agree with these things about fat people and yet. Yet I am among them. Therefore, she thinks those things about me.”

I think people need to be aware – as we enter into election season, especially – that in most cases your “likes” and “comments” can be seen by everyone who is Friends with you. So even if you don’t post it, it may still appear on your timeline .. and looks like you’re endorsing it.

There’s a lot of things I’m willing to be okay with. Diversity of thought is FINE. I appreciate it, actually. I encourage it. We’re all grown adults and having people think differently is not only what makes this country great, but it’s where innovation comes from and where we all learn a little something. It’s in the dark, uncomfortable spaces that are unfamiliar to us. But thinking such vile and hateful things? Not okay. Even when I was trim and fit, I never, ever EVER thought it was okay to think these things.

I am fat. Look, until life eases up, I’m gonna be fat. That’s okay. It’s not okay to wish ill on me because of it.

By the way, this is me .. fat.

Bookout1Bookout2Courtesy Bookout Studios, whom I can’t recommend highly enough.

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What 35 Means to Me

In less than a month – on September 3rd, to be exact – I will turn 35 years old. This age used to bear the weight of marking a midlife crisis (or the beginning of one), but now it is merely a point at which I can make declarations about what I will and won’t do for the rest of my life.

I will only wear fun makeup. On one of my recent trips to New Orleans, I knew that the oppressive heat and ridiculous humidity would do no favors to a full face of makeup, so I .. didn’t bring any. And you know what? Not one person mentioned how sick I looked or asked what was wrong or insinuated that I’d given up. Instead, my skin felt better and I got 10 minutes back in my morning.

But I will also take care of my skin. Yeah, well, better late than never. After four months on Rodan + Fields’ Soothe regimen, I’ve started Redefine to help with aging. I’m not really aging, but um, I don’t want to start if I can help it. (Plug: I am a consultant for R+F, so if you’re curious, let me know. I am the LOWEST PRESSURE you’ll ever run into.)

If I’m tired, I will take a damn nap. Know what I did a couple of times while on travel? Went to bed at 7pm. Know what I regret about that? Not a damn thing. The past few weekends, I took a catnap on days that I took the early shift with the kids. I FEEL SO MUCH MORE HUMAN WITH SLEEP.

I won’t allow misery. We’re about to enter election season and, um, I pretty much detest everything about politics now. The world is hard on an empath’s heart at current, so I’m limiting my heart’s exposure. If something causes me tears or grief or strife or anything unpleasant, DELETE.

That goes for people too. Although, to be fair, my antisocial streak from 2010-2015 took care of most of that for me.

I will spend money on my health instead of superfluous things that don’t buy me quality of life. It’s time for my health to be a priority. And weight aside, I’m really very healthy! My cholesterol is the best it’s ever been, as is my blood pressure. Now, my weight and BMI are another story. Time to focus on getting that baby … fine, TODDLER weight off.

Okay, I’ll spend some money on superfluous things. It’s time to put money on experiences. Trips, places, visits.. it’s time to take the kids on overnight adventures like we used to. It’s easier now with Vinnie almost a grown human child. We need to go try and make new memories.

You guys, I love my husband. That’s not a uniquely-35 thing, but 2016 will be our ten year wedding anniversary, and there is not a calendar week that goes by that I don’t thank the sweet baby Jesus that we ended up in the men’s room of a local theatre.

Hit a milestone lately that made you make some new rules? What am I missing here?

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The Boys And My Plans for Them

The boys are all busy. 

Vinnie’s been trying out The Little Gym; Miss Angel (who also taught Tony) is living up to her name by way of unending patience and energy.

Tony is, like, halfway to a ninja or something now. 

And we don’t have a picture of it because, you know, we don’t use our phones in the car while driving, but Jack procured his learner’s permit last week, so he’ll soon be driving our getaway cars. 

So far, our plan to be Ocean’s Fourteen is right on track. Gymnast, ninja, getaway driver, femme fatale, and George Clooney lookalike – we do need an Eliot Gould, if anyone’s up to the task.

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