GailMountainConsults:  It Is What It Is. Now What?

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GailTalks!

Our Motto: It is what it is Now what?

Creative Personal Strategic Planning For Women:

A six-week program focused on women taking personal leadership in imagining and executing personal visions that move them from one place in life to another place in life following an in-depth analysis of personal strengths and weaknesses culminating in the creation of a self-authored action plan for success.

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3rd of 3 things I learned about working with single moms: PRAXIS

Posted on March 26, 2013 at 1:55 PM Comments comments (1)

In the past few weeks I’ve talked about Hospitality and Mutuality as philosophies I have, personally, found to be critical in the work of moving single moms toward economic stability:

(Hospitality, defined as welcoming all to the table and; Mutuality, defined as recognizing (& acknowledging) that we are all teachers and learners, all learning from each other, and now I want to talk about PRAXIS as a thoughtful manner of responding to stimuli quite capable of usurping REACTION as a not-so-thoughtful manner of responding to stimuli.

And, in my very simple terms, PRAXIS, as a philosophy, differentiates itself from the reactionary thinking, oftentimes acquired by moms in reaction to the need to survive while also providing for one’s children, by insisting action taken be analyzed for pluses and minuses and new skills be acquired, as needed, prior to reimagining next steps and taking new action. Again in my simple terms, it can be summarized as:

It Is What It Is. Now What?

This I learned thoroughly, back in the day when I moved from my weekend job in shelter to being the Executive Administrative Assistant to the ED at the time: Nancy Schwoyer. Nancy imagined what she wanted to accomplish; she acted on her vision; she analyzed her progress; she bolstered what might have been found lacking to obtain success and; she acted again.

I absorbed it through osmosis and when I moved from her assistant to coaching single moms toward careers that paid family-living wages through higher education the moms absorbed it through osmosis, too, and as a result they took personal leadership; created personal strategic plans and executed those plans and; became positive role models for their children.

In the context of the work I do, PRAXIS trusts that everyone knows something and that everyone is responsible for the building up of their own knowledge and organizing their own lives.

[PRAXIS as an educational concept was developed by Paulo Freire who intended learning experiences be translated into action for liberation.]

Next: A bit more on my thinking about Hospitality, Mutuality and Praxis in the context of the work I do.

2nd of 3 things I learned about working with single moms: Mutuality

Posted on March 12, 2013 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Last week, when talking about Hospitality in the work of moving single moms toward economic stability, I was able to talk about it in the context of a body of work of two of the women I learned much of what I know about working with single moms from had done.

This week, in talking about Mutuality I don’t have a body of work to draw on. I do have the example of Sister Leonard, executive director of a family shelter, who modeled Mutuality as a philosophy, promoting mutual learning – the fact that we all learn from each other. I saw it and I did it (perhaps a bit more radically than was intended by some) and I defined it as:

Group Coaching, where we participated in the work together, where we learned from each other and where we developed a circle of interdependence – in the moment we were in.

I had entered this world straight from the field of journalism. I wasn’t very comfortable with the whole process. LOL But I came to learn that once women were in a safe place; once women were all playing on the same field and; once women were able to trust each other their ability to imagine and to create personal strategic plans and to execute those plans together grew – exponentially. It was exciting to be a participant, to be a contributor, to be an observer and to be a documenter of the success that evolved from the process.

It was also exciting to connect the dots. Hospitality as a philosophy was not just about welcoming women to the dinner table or the home it was also about welcoming women to the political process. Mutuality as a philosophy was not just about learning from each other it was also about coming together as a group capable of advocating for political change.

Our primary work was clearly about the women obtaining the education/training required to obtain jobs that paid family-living wages but it was also clearly about training them to take personal leadership to advocate for changing the systems that were temporarily sustaining them so those systems might better serve other women and their children in need.

The program, a pilot program at the time, one I was fortunate to be affiliated with for approximately 10 years, was conceived to offer staff to walk alongside income-limited women, predominantly single moms, as they lifted themselves from poverty and became leaders in their own communities and, sometimes, beyond their own communities.

Again, we never used the alienation word. Again, we didn’t have to say it we just had to NOT DO IT and that could be the beginning of breaking the pattern of poverty for many.

She called it: Mutuality.

Again, in my very simple terms, Mutuality, as a philosophy, differentiates itself from the very basic – you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours – by inviting income-limited single moms to the table and assuming each of them has something to offer the process and, again, that opens the door to conversations that, again, in my simple terms, can be summarized as:

It Is What It Is. Now What?

Next Tuesday Praxis.

 

1 of 3 things I've learned about working with single moms: Hospitality

Posted on March 5, 2013 at 11:30 AM Comments comments (0)

A number of experiences in my life, more recognizable in hindsight, have led me to the work that has become my passion – assisting single moms on their pathways toward jobs that pay a family living-wage and thereby allows them to exit a system of financial assistance that merely helps them in barely keeping their heads above water as well as humiliated and stuck.

From a young age, I watched their plight. For nearly 10 years, as a weekly columnist, I periodically wrote about their plight. And, as I was processing the impact of living in poverty in my own life and beginning to understand and overcome that impact I began to transition from observation of and writing about single moms to working, hands on, giving them the tools to lift themselves and their children out of poverty – to get unstuck.

I understood deeply -- or as deeply as one can who has not literally walked in the shoes of single motherhood -- but I had no idea how understanding could translate into action.

To make a long story short, I got my foot in the door at a local forward-thinking family shelter where I worked overnight weekends, where I was able to gain frontline experience and where I was able to learn (& internalize!) a way of working with single moms that truly (& literally!) welcomed them to the table and by doing so showed (not told!) that they were valuable.

We never used the alienation word and I learned from the actively working shelter founders (Rosemary Haughton and Nancy Schwoyer) that we didn’t have to say it we just had to NOT DO IT and that could be the beginning of breaking the pattern of poverty for many.

They called it: Hospitality.

And, in my very simple terms, Hospitality, as a philosophy, differentiates itself from the current system of taxpayer dependent charity by inviting moms to the table without judgment and that opens the door to conversations that, again in my simple terms, can be summarized as:

It Is What It Is. Now What?

 

Next Tuesday Mutuality.

 

Follow up to 3 FAQ's about my choice to focus my work on single moms

Posted on February 26, 2013 at 2:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Following all of the thinking that went into the choice to focus my work on walking alongside of single moms as they move forward toward economic stability, I, in conjunction with my per diem partner, created Creative Personal Strategic Planning for Women,

an 8-week series of workshops that facilitates the personal transformation readiness of income-limited women to move from a culture of poverty onto a pathway toward economic stability through the management of old patterns of thought and behavior and the introduction of new ones, yielding more positive and measurable outcomes and inspiring a lifelong pursuit of higher education and advanced leadership training.

The focus on single moms does not mean non-single moms cannot be included in the work of women moving forward. The CORE of the program is relevant to the success of all women and a simple collaboration to adjust is all that would be required to adapt.

In fact, the vision is of: A just society guided by principles of Hospitality, Mutuality, Learning and Praxis, where women take the lead in shaping their futures.

As far back as I can remember my experience of limited-income single moms in the United States tells me they exist on the lowest rung of any relevant statistical ladder created. By virtue of their status as poor, single, female heads of households, oftentimes birthed into generational poverty, their opportunities have been oppressed by social exclusion, based on a premise that says, by some, they are solely responsible for their economic condition via what has been and continues to be perceived as the result of their own inherent lack of moral grounding.

Also, as far back as I can remember good people have struggled to provide these moms with the keys to the kingdom – educational/training opportunities, knowing knowledge opens the door to a multitude of benefits: Family-living wages; Cost savings for the state; Revenue increases for the state and; a good chance of breaking a cycle of generational poverty.

I wholeheartedly support any and all endeavors to lift single moms and their children out of poverty but when a simple Google search shows that a large majority of single moms remain stuck in low-wage jobs and lack the education to advance into family-living wage jobs I think more is needed -- and that more is the shifting of a paradigm from one where the system “believes it knows best” to a new paradigm that recognizes and respects the experience of the survival that once served income-limited single moms, and transitions those experiences into new patterns and thoughts and behaviors, more likely to yield sustainable outcomes.

It is my experience that responding to needs of income-limited moms in managing families, jobs, schools, and a multitude of obligations demanded of them, is critical to their success (case management). But it is also been my experience that responding to need to overcome the impact of social exclusion through self-analysis, self-reflection and the self-authorship of an action plan to move forward, as well, is just as critical (case management +).

The majority of the single moms I have worked with have come to the table with hard-earned foundations but those foundations have often been skewed and incomplete as they have been built with a focus on survival, a focus that interrupts human growth development. And, often, they have been unable to depend on anyone to assist them in deciding what to believe, in transforming those beliefs from the external to the internal and to, in a safe place, develop the capacity to trust their own voices to construct their own values, principles and visions.

In conceiving Creative Personal Strategic Planning For Women, I asked myself:

What have I learned in 10 years of service to this community of women?

What has worked and what has not worked?

Is there a better way to achieve economic stability (and sustain it)?

Some of the answers to those questions, though they constantly evolve, were:

I have learned the majority of women who came through my door were ready, willing and able to succeed because they desperately wanted to.

I have learned meeting the women where they were when they came through that door without judgment but with authenticity mattered.

I have learned, yes, there is a better way and it is in taking a frank look at the past, keeping the best and losing the rest -- then -- moving on.

It is, in my very humble opinion, how existing foundations are able to shift from the negative to the positive and be built upon and it is how income-limited single moms are more likely to overcome one of the more destructive impacts of social exclusion – the message that they are not welcome to sit at the table – any table. After which, they can consider beauty and light, too.

3rd of top 3 FAQ's I've received about my choice to focus my work on single moms

Posted on February 20, 2013 at 7:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Febrary 19, 2013

The number Three question I get about my work with single moms really isn’t a clearly delineated question.

It is a deeper question, hidden within a superficial question: “So tell me what you are doing”?

“To put it in its simplest terms, I’m creating a consulting business to work with agencies who are working to move income-limited women, predominantly single moms, into the workforce – toward making a family-living wage and reducing dependence on ‘the system' with an ability to contribute to the tax base.

To do that, I take a step back from other programs in recognizing that most of these women, due to the trauma of poverty, have lost an ability to imagine a future, an ability that can be rediscovered through personal leadership training which, in turn, can put them on pathways toward obtaining economic stability.”

“Oh. So you’re talking about confidence, self-esteem?”

In a way -- but before confidence and self-esteem there is often the overcoming of alienation.

Now, there’s a word for you. In just a small sampling of the history of the word it can be used in the context of the metaphysical, the legal-political, the physiological, mass alienation, religious alienation, etc., etc., etc. But, for the purpose of the work I do, I look at it as the social exclusion of a class of people – people living in poverty who, more often than not, are single moms and their children.

It is an external rejection of one community of people by a dominating community -- often committing the alienated to lives bereft of personal power and meaning with no sense of how expected behavior can determine "normal" outcomes which can result in the alienated rebuffing the very rules imposed by the alienators.

Creative Personal Strategic Planning For Women welcomes the alienated back to the table, acknowledges the alienation and puts it in its proper place and works with the women to take back their lives and to create their self-authored action plans for success in a world that once rejected them.

Now we can get back to confidence and self-esteem, a lack of which is a self-imposed internal rejection, which is more likely to be successfully developed once the external rejection has been dispensed with.

And, therein lies our Motto: It Is What It Is. Now What?


Next Tuesday A bit more detail on my thinking about my choice to focus my work on single moms...


2nd of the top 3 FAQ's I've received about my choice to focus my work on single moms

Posted on February 7, 2013 at 3:50 PM Comments comments (0)

February 12, 2013

I’m late. I try to post my Blog on Tuesdays but sometimes I just don’t make it which is why I have Catch-up Thursdays so I can, without guilt, catch up on everything I’ve fallen behind on during the week!

Having said that,

the number two question I’ve been asked about my work has come over the past couple of years while building GailMountainConsults, featuring Creative Personal Leadership Strategic Planning For Women, a six-part workshop currently focused on coaching single moms toward economic stability,

has been: What makes you different than others? Or, as some have put it: What makes you all that?

It is a good question and interestingly enough, it can be summarized in a six-part answer:

One, we committed to taking the best from the many people in the field we have studied/worked under and leaving the rest and we committed to tempering the old with the new based on experience.

Some of the best has come from two primary mentors in our lives: Former Ex. Director of Wellspring House Inc. Nancy Schwoyer and Current Ex. Director of Project Hope Margaret Leonard -- our strong, working foundation based on Two major guiding principles: Hospitality and Mutuality.

We define Hospitality and Mutuality in the simplest of terms as: Hospitality/everyone is welcome at our table and; Mutuality/we are all learners and we are all teachers in our program.

Some of the new has come from our years of experience walking alongside primarily single moms as they have worked toward economic stability for themselves and for their children.

Creative Personal Leadership Strategic Planning For Women takes a step back from where most agencies begin their work and recognizes that single moms living in poverty are living in crisis and crisis management leaves no time to imagine a new future and/or to strategically plan for that future. To that end we coach non-crisis self-management as a way of life -- as a critical building block toward success.

Some of the new has also come from our dedication to honoring the complexities of all women’s lives, including our own, in our approach to our own work by creating a flexible hierarchy that includes a per diem executive director as well as a flexible training program that includes apprenticeships.

Three, we believe that most women living in poverty experience trauma, which needs to be self-acknowledged and self-tended to as a key component in moving toward success;

Four, we believe that most women already have the skills they need to move toward success;

Five, we believe that most women can frankly self-assess strengths and weaknesses and adjust;

Six, we believe most women can self-author visions, goals, and objectives in a safe environment.

In summation, we meet women where they are when they come in the door; we share relevant information about them with them and; we coach them in taking personal leadership by creating actionable, personal strategic plans that will put them onto pathways toward economic stability.

Next Tuesday 3rd of the top 3 FAQ's I've received about my choice to focus my work on single moms...

1 of the top 3 FAQ's I've received about my choice to focus my work on single moms

Posted on January 31, 2013 at 11:15 AM Comments comments (0)

February 5, 2013

Hands down, the number 1 question I’ve been asked over years of advocating for and/or working for the benefit of single moms and their children has been: Why women? What about the men?

The answer is simple:

It has been my experience that single moms are the most abandoned of human beings on this planet and that abandonment negatively impacts the health and welfare of children.

It has also been my experience that living in poverty is the classic outcome of the abandonment of single moms and that working with them in taking steps toward economic stability substantially increases the chances their children will positively benefit by the successful example they set.

And that, quite frankly, says nothing about how I feel about women vs. men. In fact, the truth is, I believe single moms and their children would benefit greatly by a program similar to Creative Personal Strategic Planning For Women developed and implemented for men. It is just not within my expertise to do. I do hope one day someone will.

It is no secret among many of the single moms I have worked with that I would love to see a supply of men trained in personal leadership become available as potential relationships!

I am a former journalist.

I could turn this into a “newsy” piece and give you the numbers to back up my experience but I do not feel the need to do so as I am convinced of the truth my own eyes have seen: 1.) Single moms and their children are abandoned; 2.) Single moms have the ability to be positive role models and for their children and; 3.) Single moms who are not consumed with the primal need to survive can also teach their children to imagine and to plan and to execute a better future.

Next Tuesday 2nd of the top 3 FAQ's I've received about my choice to focus my work on single moms...

Enjoy my form letter from JC Penney and Check those women's catalog pages for diversity!

Posted on January 28, 2013 at 1:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Well, well, well. When I E-mailed Macy’s and JC Penney’s, (see previous BLOG) Macy’s had a box to check off – yes or no, did I want a reply?

I checked no. I wanted to share my concern with them and I planned to look for replies in the catalogs. So, of course, Macy’s didn’t reply. But, JC Penney’s had no such box and JC Penney’s did reply – the same day, in fact. But, it’s, it’s a form letter you might say! True. It is a form letter. But its receipt reminded me of a very important point I neglected to make and that is do not succumb to the naysayers out there who discourage activism because they believe no one will read their letters (hear them!) because my best guess is all correspondence is read. Most people in power recognize the importance of customer service and the chance, no matter how slim, that it just takes one person with the right idea to solve a major problem for them at no charge! Trust me. Someone reads everything. Enjoy my form letter and above all: Check those catalog pages!

January 21, 2013

Gail,

Thank you for sharing with me your very valuable feedback. As a company founded on The Golden Rule, we consider it our top priority to treat each customer as we would like to be treated -- fair and square. We are in the process of dreaming up new ways to make you love shopping with us and your comments help us move one step closer to becoming your favorite store!

Sincerely,

Chris

Corporate Customer Care

To Whom It May Concern: Two of my Window Shopping Stores

Posted on January 21, 2013 at 7:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Last week I wrote about my disappointment with my difficulty in finding examples of casual business attire fashions for women demonstrating the real-life diversity in the real world in all of the shapes, sizes, ages, and colors women come in so I could pin them and I decided to write a letter to a couple of my favorite surf-able haunts and share that letter with you-all. I couldn’t write a letter to my first source of casual business attire fashions for women because it is some random photo thing that pops up in a general search. But, I could write a letter to two of my regular online window shopping stores Macy’s and JC Penny and I did. Here it is:

January 21, 2013

To Whom It May Concern:

For reasons that need not be explained I use Pinterest to collect and share examples of casual business attire fashions for women. In the process, I have discovered that it is very, very difficult to find a diverse mix of women modeling such clothes on your site. I write to alert you to this situation with great hope that you will resolve this problem by striving harder to make sure all shapes, sizes, ages and colors of women are represented in your advertising. That would be helpful to me. I suspect it would be helpful to you, too, in expanding your customer base as it seems to me shoppers would be more likely to shop if they were to see themselves reflected on your pages. And, perhaps it would be helpful to all of those women, as well, to see themselves on the pages of the stores where they spend a lot of their money.

Thanking you in advance,

Sincerely,

GKMTN

(That may or may not result in any change but surely there will never be any change without attention being drawn, with all due respect, to what needs to be changed.)

Original Blog Below:


Accepting personal leadership leads to change

Posted on January 14, 2013 at 11:15 AM Comments comments (2)

(Actually, 1.15.2013)


I have accepted personal leadership for myself.

I accept personal leadership for myself. I was raised that way, in the context of -- you take your own actions and you suffer your own consequences. I didn’t always understand it. I just did it.

I grew up in a socially exclusionary environment.

I could be described as a rebellious kid. I always knew if I did it I owned it, though. From that background I gleaned strength, coupled with a sensitivity to alienation – or otherness.

My strength needed to be redirected toward the positive.

1st, I was angry. 2nd, I carried a chip on my shoulder for a long time. 3rd, I fell in love with education. 4th, I fell in love and had children. 5th, I figured out that owning it is not enough.

It Is What It Is, is not enough. What Now?, must be the next question, followed by action.

Fortunately, through experience and maturity, I’ve grown.

As I moved through the process of human growth development, experience and maturity also taught me it may be wise to reflect prior to taking action. And, now, that is how I try to live.

My passion has become social justice for single moms.

As a result of that passion, I find a reason to take personal leadership several times a week.

This past weekend, for example, I was surfing the net looking for photos of casual business dress for one of the categories on my Pinterest page. (http//pinterest.com/GKMTNconsults)

Truth is, I want to display a diverse view of women. Fact is, it is not so easy to do. I found myself searching and searching and searching for women who were dressed for work and not white!

It bothers me. Perhaps I am not looking in the right places? Perhaps there are special places that carry such photos I missed? My gut says that is not true but, if anyone knows of any – please share!

In the meantime, my personal leadership compass says:

“Write a letter to at least 3 major women’s clothing stores you peruse online on a regular basis and ask them, without passing judgment, to diversify their catalogs and/or advertising more than they do.”

Next Tuesday, I will share that letter with you

GailMountainConsults: Creative Personal Strategic Planning For Women 2013

Posted on December 5, 2012 at 3:15 PM Comments comments (0)

I am practicing what I preach: I've acted. I've created a Website and I've created a Facebook Page. Taking my own advice, I will be reflecting, learning and acting again soon, ie, getting website kinks out!

As a first step out into the world of high tech I am utitlizing an inexpensive (read as free!) site while working toward perfection.

In the meantime, if you are an organization working to move income-limited, single moms into the workforce -- in a sustainable fashion -- check out my website @ http://www.gailmountainconsults.com or facebook @ http://www.facebook.com/GKMTNconsults or Pinterest @ http://pinterest.com/gkmtnconsults

I am scheduling consultation meetings now and I'd love to hear from you!

GKMTN


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