Clinical depression is not an emotion

Some days I have regular old situational depression.

My old dog died a month ago.  I’ve been sad. 

I have a chronic illness that will never go away and promises a lifetime of pain.  That really sucks.

And with the empty nest we have now, it gets kinda quiet and lonely sometimes.

These are all normal; I don't need drugs for that. As much as that makes me sad some days, I welcome it, I don't shy away from emotions.  But sad terrifies me.

The battle against depression is a long one. Every variety of depression looks a little bit different than the next. For me it’s crying. Just crying. If you asked me what was wrong, I'd have no answer.

When life itself was miserable, depression just felt ordinary. But I knew I needed help when I had everything I could have ever dreamed of, and I still cried every day. Literally every day. I am currently responding well to my meds, and I have been for over a decade. It took a couple of tries to find the right one for me. That’s where a good doctor can help. I still feel a full range of life's emotions.  But without the weight of the beast that is depression sitting on my shoulders.

I have achieved personal and professional success. I still have depression. It is not situational.

Luckily, my depression does not come with the despair and hopelessness that so many others feel. However, if not treated, I can see how it could go there quickly.

I have found great success with a good doctor and good medication.  If I was not that fortunate, then I could totally see where self-medication would be a welcome relief.  This is how many many addictions find their way into the lives of people you love.

If you need help, please get it. It is a sign of strength to get that help, not a sign of weakness. Find a doctor that will step you thru the process of finding your way out from under the weight of depression. It is exhausting to pretend to be ok when you are not.

If you know someone that needs help, help them find that help. If you don’t know what to do, ask someone (like me) for ideas.

If you are reading this, know that I will be there for you. I am happy to be your 3am phone call when the tears just won’t end.

I am not ashamed. I should be ashamed if I didn't seek treatment or if I hid behind a diagnosis.

Most days I win. Some days the demons win. I am fortunate that my battles are small ones.

What makes a successful meeting on “The Hill”?

I have been fortunate enough to be invited to join a group of small business owners as we meet in Washington DC with Act|The App Association. It’s an annual event, this year in April. The days go so fast, but it’s so worth it. I have been several times, and will continue to return as long as I’m invited. A meeting can be deemed successful based on many different aspects. For me, if I feel that I was heard, it was a good meeting. Even if we didn’t agree or become besties.

Day one is for arriving and exploring DC on your own, then meeting the group for dinner.


Day two is heads down learn learn learn. Learn about what issues are most current and where we might be able to have some influence. What matters to me and my business? Big topics for us this year include funding for STEM education, government access to data and encryption.

So, day three. Lots of meetings. Lots. Learn something from each meeting. Leave a memory and a story. Here’s the rundown of my day three this year.

Started my day with The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. To talk about encryption and privacy. Just a small little meeting to start my day, get off to an easy start. Nobigdeal. No, wait, this is a big deal. A huge deal. There are active cases likely to go to SCOTUS very soon. There’s new legislation proposed that will overreach and impact every single person that makes software. Not to mention endanger the data and protection of our data as citizens. The meeting was great. They asked questions. Lots and lots of questions. They had their lists of arguments and asked for our counter-arguments. It was not at all confrontational, despite every other sentence starting with “not to be devil’s advocate, but…” I honestly felt heard. I feel that I likely had an impact.


I was in a great great mood. I headed to my next meeting, at Congressman Doug Lamborn’s office. It’s easy to say that that Doug and I disagree on most things. But, he is my elected representative and I needed to go and be heard. We had a brief chat with a staffer. The meeting was unremarkable. I had the staffer take my picture at Doug’s desk.


After a quick lunch it was back to the Senate side.

We were supposed to meet with a familiar face at Senator Michael Bennet’s office. We arrived and the senator was in the hallway posing for photos with a group of students. The staffer met us in the hall and we just started chatting as the senator rushed off to a vote. No big deal. Senator Bennet’s office is always receptive and welcoming. A hallway meeting in DC is still a meeting. Turns out I was wrong. It wasn’t a hallway meeting with a senior staffer. It was a walking West Wing style meeting. Walking fast, talking about important issues. Down to the tunnels, on the restricted little train to the Capitol. Yes, there was a vote happening. But we’re going to the reception room to chat with the senator when he finishes the vote. The reception room was this big ornate space, full of other people having there squeezed in meetings. Lots of familiar faces all around. The senator finished his vote and we found a place to stand and chat. He knew about me. He knew about my work with schools. He knew the things that mattered to me. He was either well-briefed or totally stalks my blog and social media.


Next up was Senator Cory Gardner’s office. Last time I was in DC, I emailed and asked to meet directly with the Senator, not a staffer. They said the Senator was busy but so and so would love to meet with you. I said I was busy too, and was getting on an airplane, the least he could do was meet with me. So last year, I met directly with the senator. He was new to office, had his temporary office in the basement of a Senate building. This year I met with a senior staffer and had a good chat about data privacy and STEM education. Was non-remarkable but just fine.

Last up was Congressman Raul Labrador from Idaho. The staff member we were scheduled to meet had a last minute conflict and we met instead with a senior staffer. I didn’t know much about things in Idaho, other than I’ve been there and it’s almost as pretty as Colorado and I have a few friends that live in Boise. So, when you don’t know what to talk about, try something you might have in common. Education! We all want our kids to be well-educated. Right? Well, the Congressman from Idaho feels very strongly that education is a state issue, not a federal issue. I can see that point, but the reality is that we have currently federal involvement in education and the Department of Education isn’t getting dissolved any time soon. That meeting was not very productive and felt like the longest meeting of the day. Don’t get me wrong, they were totally polite. We were welcome to be there. They gave us Cliff Bars (they are made in Idaho)!

The “we” I reference is different for every meeting. The other civilians like me join together for the meetings and for most of the meetings ACT|The App Association sends along a staff member (they are our saving grace if we forget a point, have a hard time saying what needs to be said, great moral support).


Executive- check! Legislative- check! Judicial- NEXT WEEK!

I am a big government nerd (not a fan of ginormous government, but a big fan of government). Very fascinated by the government, the political aspects of it. Love the logic and reasoning that in a perfect world prevails. I have the Constitution on my phone and reference it more often that you might think, especially during our crazy current political climate.

Legislative branch- For several years now I have been honored to offer my voice on Capitol Hill. Offering my views and influence on STEM education, technology policy and more. I have met with staffers, council, policy writers and sitting Senators and Congressmen (and one Congresswoman).

Executive branch- I have also been invited to The White House to do the same with the science and technology policy folks. I met my first sitting president in 1992 during George HW Bush’s re-election bid. I have shaken hands with President Obama in 2012 and got to personally grill him with my questions at a town hall in 2009.

Judicial branch- Next week after spending a day on The Hill hoping to be heard, I plan to stop by The Supreme Court to hear oral arguments. I intend to attend the consolidated argument taking on criminalization of refusal to consent to warrantless field sobriety tests. Three cases have been combined based on their similarities to one another. Thanks to the ACLU for providing this quick summary:

Whether states may criminalize a driver’s refusal to consent to a warrantless blood, breath or urine test for alcohol after a drunk driving arrest.

In 2013, the Supreme Court held in Missouri v. McNeely that the Fourth Amendment bars warrantless blood tests in drunk driving cases absent exigent circumstances beyond the normal dissipation of alcohol in the blood. The issue in this case is whether a state can criminally prosecute a driver for exercising his Fourth Amendment right to refuse consent. The ACLU argues in an amicus brief that the assertion of a constitutional right can never be a crime, and that the government cannot avoid this basic rule by treating the issuance of a driver’s license as a blanket consent to all future blood, breath, or urine testing without a warrant.

Watch for a follow-up after my visit.

The Colorado GOP says my vote is irrelevant

The Colorado GOP will decide your vote this season.  No seriously they will.  You don't get a say.

"Colorado’s delegates to the 2016 RNC will be unbound"

Now that doesn't sound bad does it?  But it is. 

It means that the Colorado Republicans do not respect the views and desires and votes of its Colorado citizens. 

It means don't you worry your pretty little head about voting sweetie, we got this, now go make me a sammich.

It means that each delegate chooses the candidate they personally prefer, with no regard to the will of the people.

Used to be that in order to have a say in the Colorado primary/caucus process you needed to register as GOP.  That's why I was registered as such for many years. 

I switched that today.

GOP press release here.

I will continue to vote based my own thoughts and not based on party.  But I demand my voice be heard.  We all should.

Women in technology; @Pluralsight walks the walk and talks the talk

A few months ago, while at the Pluralsight Author Summit, they hosted an open Q&A with the founders.  The room was full of authors from around the world and many many Pluralsight staff.  Aaron, Fritz and Keith are great guys, always have been.  And they took all kinds of questions.  Then I had my turn.  It went something like…  Look around this room.  We’re surrounded by middle-aged white men.  What’s your plan for changing that?  (followed by: Could one of the middle-age white men on the stage please address this?).

They candidly acknowledged the issue and were very open in saying they wanted to make a difference and were still struggling with how to do that.  They asked for any insight or advice we could offer, women in the room and men in the room.

We are all guilty of going with what we know, it’s the easy path.  It’s finding that new path, it’s in the expanding the net for more coverage when looking for new talent, it’s those things that make a difference, those things that make a change.  It’s those things that good companies, like Pluralsight, are doing. 

It’s the subtle things.  It’s giving your women authors great shirts that are cut for women instead of the boxy “uni-sex” (that are actually just men’s shirts, c’mon).  It’s staffing your booth at Ignite with a good mix of men and women (I didn’t count, but it was obvious there were plenty of women there). 

It’s the bigger things.  Releasing a series of women in technology videos.  Things that cover the good, the bad and the sometimes odd story of women in tech.  I am rather honored to be included in these videos. 

No woman wants to be hired simply because she’s a woman.  She wants to be hired because she is qualified for the task at hand. 

I heard a scary statistic the other day, and I wish I had a good source to back it up, but cannot find it.  It stated that men are promoted based on their potential and women are promoted based on their accomplishments.  That’s a big scary problem.

What’s your part?  It can be as easy as sending your business to companies like Pluralsight.  You can become one of the women authors at Pluralsight.  You can become an activist.  You can simply continue working hard and rewarding equally based on merit, keeping an eye out for incidental sexism and stomping it out.

The women that inspire me

As Women’s History month comes to a close, I decided to share a bit about some of the women in my life that inspire me. This list is by no means complete. Some have provided professional inspiration, all of them personal inspiration. Each has a totally different story. Each of these women are remarkable.

Each of these women influence who I am.

Tina Graham- We didn’t have much growing up, but somehow after many many bumps in the road we each found our way to personal and professional success. I watched as she worked hard to continue her education and that meant that I could too! She was my cool older sister. And she still is.

Linda Dust- My Aunt Linda didn’t take a traditional path. She was eager for professional success at a time when women were expected to be at home. She had a long-term inter-racial relationship at a point in our US history when people were harassed and even killed for such things. She’s never had children of her own, but lavished her love and knowledge on her lucky nieces and nephews.

Michele Bustamante- She is smart. She is witty. She is respected by her peers. She is who she is with no apologies.

MaryBeth Spurlock- Some 15 years ago we were both single moms trying to make things work. We were there for each other, buying milk when pay day was too far away. She is living her dream with her dream kids, her dream job, her dream husband. Fairytales can come true.

Gloria Steinem- Who among us has not been inspired by her? It is always a gamble to meet our heroes, but I was fortunate enough to spend an afternoon with her a few years ago. She was as amazing of a woman in person as she was on paper.

Jacqueline Rickman- How strange it feels to call my little girl a woman, but she is one. She has inspired me for almost 20 years now. Her view of the world is refreshing and her desire to help others is remarkable.

Elaine Torbit- My 8th grade art teacher. She was the first person to SHOW me art, help me appreciate the passion that can go into making something beautiful. It is because of her that I wanted to travel the world to see these beautiful things. Growing up without much money made me think it would never be possible, but as soon as it was possible I went back in my head to those things she showed us so I could seek them out. I now also look for the beauty in my every day.

Anne Stanton- Succeeding in a world dominated by men. Being who she is and being good at it. Making it though tough personal times to come out ahead and better and happy for it on the other side. What’s not to inspire?

Sheila Delorenzo- She really doesn’t know how smart she is, such a great businesswoman. Her kind heart gets in the way of her seeing that, but to succeed at her passion for so long when so many small businesses fail is a remarkable accomplishment. She loves easily and completely. Add on top of that raising some pretty awesome children and she really is an inspiration to many, myself included.

my week at a tech conference #wit

I went to a tech conference this past week.  We all know that as women in tech we have become used to less than stellar treatment.  I have spoken and blogged and written many times about women in tech and how we are treated.  Here’s the lowdown from this week.

I went to a tech conference.  Over a thousand people there, so a good medium-sized event. Male attendees out-numbered female attendees easily by 10 to 1.

I attended sessions.  No one cared about my gender.

I asked questions in sessions.  No one cared about my gender.

I went to evening events.  No one cared about my gender.

I ate in the standard chow hall with all the other attendees.  No one cared about my gender.

I went to a tech conference and no one cared about my gender.  Is this how men feel?  

what happens to women at a tech conference #wit

Ask my friends, I am not a prude.  I like to have fun, with my friends.  I let loose, with my friends.  I’ve been known to curse like a sailor and tell an off-color joke or two, with my friends.  And it’s actually pretty easy to be my friend.  So before I get responses telling me to lighten up, I don’t need to, I already am.  I am not whining.  I am offering specific tangible items to help educate folks on how women in tech are treated on a regular basis.  Since I am in tech, I am not sure if the issues exist in other professional worlds.  Tech is my professional world.  None of these events made me personally feel threatened, yet none of them were appropriate in the environment of a professional conference.

Women in technology is a hot topic these days (again).  For me, being a woman in technology is irrelevant.  I am either too naïve or too arrogant to think I am treated differently because of my gender (on a regular basis, with those I choose to work with).  Going to a conference is a whole ‘nother thing.  I’ve written before about someone dropping a roofie in my drink at a large tech conference.  This is not about things to that extreme.  This is the list of annoying and inappropriate things that happen to us (women in tech) on a regular basis.  Things we shouldn’t have to put up with in a professional world.

The conference I was at is irrelevant.  It is a conference made, run and attended by professionals, a few thousand of them.  Except for the annoying few that trigger blog posts such as this one.   It is a conference that felt nearly even 50/50 men and women as both attendees and speakers.  All of the men I will be referring to here are middle age or older.  They likely have daughters, some quite likely have daughters my age.  They are men that should know better.  Somehow the young men at these conferences are the ones that know how to have fun and not cross certain lines (or maybe I’m too old for them to bother?).  This is a middle-aged man issue (from my vantage point).

Annoyance #1- there was an experts table for attendees to come to and ask their specific questions of the experts (the desk was staffed by volunteer speakers and MVPs).  At this time there were three of us staffing the table, myself and two male colleagues.  A man none of us know (at least 60 years old) approached the table, walked directly up to me and asked “is this where I get my massage?” My response was that we only massage brains here, he walked away. 

Annoyance #2- the event party was hosted at a local bar.  The sponsors had a fine selection of beverages available for us that did not include any hard liquor.  I was standing with a group of female friends listening to live music, one of the sponsors of the party was in the band, and it was kinda fun actually.  A man none of us knew, stumbled over to us, tray of shots in hand, I’d say about my age (mid 40s).  He offered shots, we all declined.  (Offering the drinks, not a problem.  Not accepting our no, there’s the problem.)  He set down the tray and picked one girl from our group as his target and was practically pouring the shot into her mouth while she was saying no thanks, hey I’m working, leave me alone kinda things.  I took the shot from his hand and placed it on a nearby table and told him to just walk away in my best mom voice.  He listened and left us alone.  No one should accept an already poured drink from someone they do not know (see above about being roofied).  No one should have to say no thank you more than once.

Annoyance #3- this one crosses a bit of a line that the others did not, but the man in this story responded respectfully and appropriately when confronted.  A woman at the conference let me know that a friend of hers, also a woman attending the conference, had acquired a stalker and he was making her very uncomfortable.  My immediate response was let’s find this man and tell him to stop.  I find out a little of the story.  He is older than I (I’d say mid to late 50s), recently divorced, a tad bit socially awkward and unaware.  He and my new friend had exchanged a few texts like people might do at a conference.  Then he went too far.  Like 100 text messages a day too far.  Like comments about her stripping as a job if the tech thing didn’t work out.  Too far.  We are in the expo hall, we notice this man I go to speak with him.  I do feel the need to say, it was a well-attended public place and at no time did I put myself in danger by approaching him.  I introduced myself, ask if he had a minute to talk. I explained we had a friend in common and that he was making her very uncomfortable.  His texts and conversations we smothering and inappropriate and needed to stop.  This is a professional conference and we should keep it that way.  He seemed genuinely surprised.  Agreed to leave her alone.  He sent one more text to her, apologizing.  Then he stopped.

I did nothing special.  I did what women do for each other.  Had I been on the receiving end of the unwanted attention again, any one of the women around me would have done the same thing.  It’s what we do. 

We shouldn’t have to.

How to lobby for change

One of our biggest rights and obligations as Americans is to be heard.  We have an absolute obligation to make sure our legislators hear what is important to us, they represent us.  Sure, we do it all the time with votes.  But, the real power we have is truly our opinions and the expression to those that have the decision-making power that we have given them.  Even if you didn’t vote for them, make them listen to you.  They represent all of their constituents, not just the friendlies. 

I have been fortunate (very very fortunate) to have been invited to attend a fly-in sponsored by ACT.  (I’ve done this magical trip three times and will continue to go as long as I am invited)  What’s a fly-in?  In this case, an opportunity to brush-up on specific issues that affect me and my (business) world.  ACT shares many of the same concerns that I face but they have the staff and resources to have done much more research than I, they also love to share that info.  They help us look much more smarter when we take our meetings.  Smile

So this leads me to my first bit of advice  Find a sponsor group.  It can be big or small.  You could even start one.  If your special interest doesn’t already have a group, I’d respectfully suggest you have an obligation to form one.  Why a group?  Doesn’t your one voice carry weight?  Well, sure, but the more voices heard, the more constituents that speak up on an issue, the more it is in the brain of that ELECTED official.

Next bit of advice:  Pick your issues, you can’t have them all at once.  Sure we have opinions on loads and loads of things.  But just like we coach our kids to make a targeted wish list to Santa, you need the same when you ask for change in DC.  Pie in the sky is great.  But, targeted issues that are before Congress TODAY will get you somewhere.  Know the agenda for now, know of that what matters to you.  Also, don’t be that crazy person that demands Constitutional level change that only improves their own life.

Also, go to DC.  In person.  Get on a plane, drive your car.  However you do it, do it.  Stay in the outskirts at a cheap motel and take the metro if you must.  But, there is nothing quite like wearing a suit and taking a meeting in those historic buildings.  It really almost feels magical.  And when you are there you know you have their attention, they will be listening and taking notes.  If you can’t make it to DC, a phone call is better than an email, an email is better than apathy.

It is ok to meet with staffers.  They work hard, they do research on things, make recommendations, they get stuff done.  If you do get time with your Congressman/Congreswoman/Senator know your elevator pitch for the issues.  And yes, pull out your phone and take a selfie with them.  Put it on social media.

Finally, follow-up.  Send a thank you card.  Get a nice plain card with a pretty picture on it, write some kinds words with a pen and stamp that baby and send it.

Rinse and repeat.  Issues change all of the time.  Once is not enough, make it a regular thing to be heard.  It is your obligation.