Closing the Confidence Gap, SheLoves

Quick link: Closing the Confidence Gap

Today I’m writing at SheLoves about leadership, confidence, girls…

closing the confidence gap

In June The Atlantic published an articled called The Confidence Gap, which cited evidence that women are less self-assured than men. They found that confidence affected success just as much as competence and that women, in general, suffer an acute lack of confidence compared with men.

Even female leaders, women at the top of their careers – investment bankers, pioneering engineers, WNBA stars – revealed that they are plagued by self-doubt, that they feel they came across their success by luck rather than skill, that they feel like imposters or frauds, undeserving. Women don’t consider themselves as worthy as men for promotions, predict they will do worse on tests, underestimate their abilities, are less likely to ask for raises and if they do ask, they ask for less. Unless they feel 100% confident, or borderline perfect, a woman is less likely to take a risk or initiate something new.

Included in the online article was a link to a test that would reveal your level of confidence. I took the test and, well, either you know me well or you’ll have to read the SheLoves piece to learn what my results were.

Click here to read the rest of Closing the Confidence Gap

*image via Flickr

Happy Nine

Today is Lucy’s ninth birthday. This little girl who almost didn’t get made because I was so terrified of having twins again, never ceases to amaze and delight us. Instead of writing about how great she is, I’ll just let a few of the writings I’ve published in the past speak for themselves.

Happy nine, Lucy Deeqsan.

lucy 9

A Child of Two Worlds, Modern Love column, New York Times

Turning Black, Huffington Post

The Happy Middle Years, Brain Child

A Baby at an American Military Camp, Brain Child

God, Giver of Harmonicas, SheLoves Magazine

p.s. It is also Ethiopian New Year and it is also the thirteenth year since the 9/11 attacks on the United States. Not forgotten.

Fighting and Forgiveness, A Life Overseas

Quick link: Seventy Times Seven, Conflict and Forgiveness

Today I’m at A Life Overseas writing about forgiveness. One of the hardest things for expatriates to do is get along with each other. Spouses, coworkers, teammates…everyone is in a pressure cooker of culture shock, language learning, loneliness, expectation…and sometimes things explode. I share a story, though not about a conflict we experienced overseas, and the beginnings of what we’ve learned about forgiveness.


I used to think that when Jesus said to forgive seventy times seven times, he meant that people would be so mean, so sinful, that they would keep sinning against me (and I against them) and I should forgive each new transgression as readily as the first. And forgiving them looked something like accepting their apology, shaking their hand, or kissing their cheek and hugging, and saying, “I forgive you.”

That seemed challenging but easy enough. I could offer a limp hand or a sideways hug, mumble the words in a quiet voice, and move on. One sin against me, one forgiveness offered, voila, the scales were balanced. And vice versa.

Until this method stopped working. Until a friend hurt me so deeply I couldn’t breathe. Until mumbling, “I forgive you” didn’t erase the anger, bitterness, and sick feeling. Until she bolted so quickly there was no time for shaking hands and I couldn’t accept an apology that has never been offered.

What does forgiveness look like then?

Click here to read the rest of Seventy Times Seven, Conflict and Forgiveness

*image via Flickr

Talking to the Parents of Boarding School Kids, Do’s and Don’ts

Quick link: What Not to Say to the Parents of Boarding School Kids

I’m nervous. I talked to other parents, wrote this essay, and Brain Child published it today and I’m nervous. It is a topic that really sits on the ledge and could topple over quickly into snark, bitterness, anger, and misunderstanding. I really tried to avoid going there but am not my own best editor.


We all can get defensive when it comes to parenting choices. Mommy Wars, anyone? Like I wrote in the piece in the mommy war link, none of us is sufficient on our own, none of us makes perfect choices that will guarantee a certain outcome. We’re fumbling in the dark, learning to trust, and leaning on each other.

Its just that sometimes when I need to lean a little, with our particular choice of boarding school, it can seem like the support I thought would be there isn’t. Not intentionally, not always. Most people don’t intend to cause offense or hurt feelings. But there are ways of phrasing things that, quite simply, sting.

A flight attendant on our five-day flight fiasco asked why I was leaving my kids in Kenya and what we did in Djibouti. I told her and she said, “Well, you just meet the most interesting people, don’t you?”

I guess you do. And here are some suggestions on talking with those interesting people (who, by the way, don’t feel they are all that interesting).

Thank you to everyone who loves our family, our kids, and who blesses us with friendship and curiosity about our lives, even when you might not agree with our choices. Thank you for letting me lean, for asking sincere questions, for the evident care and affection you shower on my family.

There are few responses to our decision to send our 12-year old children to boarding school that are harder to hear than, “I could never do that.” Especially when that response comes from people I care too much about to offend by saying out loud what runs through my mind in the moments following this declaration.

I could never raise my kids in a country that sells five-pound gummy bears. I could never raise my kids in a culturally isolated, world-view restricted, familiar but uninspiring location.

It is a good thing I don’t respond like this because not only are these responses cruel and snarky, they are lies.

They are lies because I could raise my kids in America, I even daydream about it sometimes. I have good friends who are excellent parents raising kids in America. There are kids with healthy palates, culturally diverse worlds, wide-open world-views, living creative and inspired lives in the American suburbs.

The reason these answers are what initially rise to the surface when someone says I could never do boarding school is because those words imply a refusal to step into my world for even a second, an inability to see anything beyond the four walls of their own choices so I knee-jerk back with the same attitude. They also subtly (and not so subtly sometimes) communicate a, “You don’t love your kids as much as I do,” kind of attitude that is equally false and I want to belittle the speaker just because I can be mean like that at times.

I compiled a list of things to never say to the parents of boarding school kids as well as the responses that go through that parent’s mind when we hear them. I have personally heard each of these, and more…

Click here to read the rest of What Not to Say to the Parents of Boarding School Kids

*image via Wikipedia

What I Learned from a Five-Day Flight Fiasco

(a little bit long but here is the story of our incredible journey last weekend, in case anyone is interested in details. jet lag makes for quiet, early morning blogging hours…)

I left the United States, or tried to, Thursday August 28. I was going home. My intent was to land in Djibouti at 2:45 a.m. Sunday morning. I would pass through Chicago, Doha (Qatar), Nairobi (Kenya), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia). On Saturday I had a required 22 hour layover during which I would drop my kids off at boarding school, see their new high school dorms, meet their dorm parents, and generally ensure things were off to a good start for their freshman year.

The flight from Minneapolis left almost two hours late and we were off on the adventure of a lifetime. And here is lesson number one:

We had a bad time. We weren’t suffering. Some might call what we have been through these past five days (I’ll say five because I started on Thursday and ended on Monday) suffering.

I suppose in the dictionary meaning of the word, they would be right. It was hard, stressful, exhausting, confusing, frustrating, enraging, and completely out of my control. But in the emotional sense, I feel funny calling it suffering. Every plane flew safely. We spent one night in a nice hotel on American Airlines’ dime. We spent over $200 in food vouchers on, again, American Airlines’ dime. We dealt with staff who, though not god-like in their ability to solve our problems, were empathetic and seemed genuinely concerned about our welfare.

We were not shot at, our homes were not destroyed by fire or earthquake or flood or war, we broke no bones, felt little hunger, had no sense of our lives being in danger. We weren’t victims of a crime or violence.

We were tired and sore from lugging bags (had to check and recheck them multiple times) and wanted a shower, a toothbrush (never, ever, never forget your toothbrush on international flights), and a place to lie down but that is not the same as wanting a child not to have cancer, to not have been evicted from a home, to have a reliable source of income, or a stable and functioning government.

Due to our late departure we missed our connection, by less than five minutes, to Qatar. We ran, we sweat, we pleaded but the plane taxied away before our very eyes. After retrieving our luggage, we dragged the bags to the Radisson.

Here are lesson number 2 and 3: A little calmness goes a long way and misery loves company. Another woman had to retrieve her bags because her flight had been cancelled. She was furious. She insulted the lost baggage employee, insulted the airline, called people names, yelled, and generally made a stink.

Not because of any strength of character on my own part but simply because I was already too tired to muster rage, I spoke calmly with the same employee. She made a call on my behalf to her supervisor and retrieved my bags quickly.

The other woman eventually got her bags and we wound up on the same shuttle to the same Radisson. She spent the entire time huffing to her husband about how awful the experience had been. Henry, Maggie, and I laughed about the haul we picked up from Caribou on our food vouchers. The first haul of many. Had we known, it might not have been so fun.

Misery loves company so don’t give it any. I knew that once I started down the complaining route my kids would follow. I saw this in the woman and her fellow passengers. They riled each other up, egged each other on. I was with two teenagers who could easily derail into complaining. I already don’t like flying and tend toward impatience and could easily derail myself into complaining. We all made a conscious choice that we weren’t going to get on the complain train. This was quite possibly the best thing we did.

And here is lesson number 4: Take things as they come. No sense in worrying about making that connection or meeting that bag upon arrival. You can’t do anything about it. Worrying only makes you more upset and ruins the intervening experiences.

Had we known how hard things were going to get we would not have been able to laugh at Henry talking in his sleep and asking us what we would like to drink. We would not have enjoyed pedicures (at that time I thought I would no longer leave the airport in Kenya and spent the money I would have spent on that visa on pretty toenails. I was wrong but Maggie still got pretty blue toenails). We would not have laughed at the absolutely ridiculous American television that is on in hotels after midnight.

The next afternoon we boarded our plane now heading for London instead of Qatar, now on American Airlines instead of Qatar Airways. Qatar has better movies, better food, better service, better seats, gives you toothbrushes, socks, and face masks. American Airlines gets you there. Eventually.

american airlines

They get you there five hours late. Due to a dented door on the outside of the plane, we sat on the tarmac for three hours (after more than an hour delay in boarding). They got us to London but not on time to meet our next connecting flight and thus we were handed more food vouchers and rescheduled tickets. This meant I would now have to rebook my final leg to Djibouti by purchasing a new ticket.

That was possibly my lowest moment up to that time. It took about three hours and more money than I want to think about. And here is lesson number 5:

I have so much to be thankful for. I had the money, or at least the credit card, to get myself home. This is a wildly unique experience in the global scheme of things. Almost everyone in the airport (probably there were a few refugees) is a person of some kind of means. We are in an airport! I know people in Djibouti who have never been in a car. Wealth beyond compare.

Here is our bag of candy from a bakery at the Heathrow airport. We had 51 pounds to spend and had already eaten a delicious Lebanese lunch with our other voucher. The employee said, “Spend it all, girl. They should have given you more.” We ended up literally throwing fistfuls of candy bars and gingerbread men into bags, he added cookies and croissants and fruit buckets. The kids brought it to school.

food voucher candy

To make a long story just a bit longer, I will tell you that the tears began to actually leak out when, upon arrival in Kenya, we were missing bags. The hardest one to be missing was Maggie’s bag of clothes and some medicine for a friend. She handled it well, with a passing moment of discouragement. I had to bite my tongue and rub my red eyes to keep from finally, finally yelling at an employee who had nothing to do with the missing bag and was wonderfully helpful.

No one knows where the bags are or which airline is in charge of them or what the numbers are that are attached to them. We may or may not ever see them again.

None of us will go naked. It is just stuff.

I still have one leg to go. I am writing this in good faith that I will get to Djibouti at 2:45 a.m. with no further ado.

P.S. My kids are 100% amazing. This isn’t something I learned on this trip, I was convinced over fourteen years ago. But I saw it again. They did not complain one single time. There was no whining. Not even when the bag with all the new school clothes went missing. Not even when they had to get to school a day late and miss all the first day things with friends and have less time to prepare for classes Monday. There was anxiety, frustration, disappointment. But there was also laughter, gratitude, prayer, and the verbalizing that we were making quite the great memory together. That made the entire fiasco worthwhile.

Here they are, pretending to have an awful time.

crying in heathrow

P.P.S. Kenya Airways has done a heroic job of finding our missing bags and as of this writing (I am now in Djibouti), they are on their way to their respective locations.

*image via Flickr