Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"What is it that you do all day?"

I actually had a colleague ask me that recently. While it might sound a bit offensive to some, it really didn't rub me the wrong way because my job is kind of confusing and filled with tons preconceived notions.

I am a lobbyist. I work for a wonderful non-profit and work to make sure children in our state are given ever chance to grow up safe and healthy.

"Lobbyist" is a bit of a dirty word. Partly, because there are some dirty lobbyist out there. But then there are some awesome, hard working, smart and ethical people in this role that do the right thing for the right reason. Can you guess which group I chose to associate myself with?

The simplest way I can answer the question of "what is it that you do all day?" is to compare it to waiting in an airport for a flight. There is a flight you are taking (in this case, it's a bill you are working on passing) and you've been informed its going to "take off" at a certain time. So, you prepare and pack for your trip (or do all your research and fact finding to support your case) and show up at the airport (or State House). Then you sit. And wait for your plane to take off (or your bill to come up in debate in a committee hearing or on the floor). While you wait, you check e-mails and strike up conversations with fellow travelers (or fellow lobbyists). You find out why they are there and often find out that you traveling to the same final destination (or both support the same bills). Suddenly, over the loudspeaker, you hear one of two announcements: your fight has been delayed (your bill is not up for reading or debate today) or you are now boarding (your bill is now up for reading or debate). If you are lucky enough to begin the "boarding process" the next few minutes (or in some cases hours) are filled with excitement, nervousness, and stress. And you don't truly breathe a sigh of relief until you are finally in the air at cruising altitude (or all the votes have been tallied and your bill passes).   But that relief is short lived, because whether you got delayed or off the ground you are going to have to do it all over again when your flight is re-booked or when you make your connection (and your bill will eventually come up for debate or it will then move to the other chamber for the process to start over).

While this is just a snap shot of a day, it really doesn't give justice to the work that goes in to passing laws (on both sides lobbyists to lawmakers).  Or why we  do what we do. I was recently asked by a college student for a class paper to answer some questions about my profession. I found as I was answering the questions, that I'm proud of the work I do and what I have been able to accomplish along side of some fantastic people. Here's a snap shot of my responses:

1. Why did you choose this profession? I went into social work, like many people do, because I was interested in helping others. I chose to focus on a “macro” track in grad school because I wanted to work on “big picture issues” that are addressed at the organization and community level. I have spent the last 8 years working with various nonprofits in South Carolina to improve the health and well-being of women, children and family.

2. How would you describe the responsibilities of your position? I am responsible for tracking state legislation that impacts our mission of preventing child abuse and neglect and unintentional injury. I create a legislative agenda that includes bills our organization will lead, endorse, monitor, or oppose during the session. I work closely with members of the General Assembly and provide them with information (data, reports) that help them make the best decisions for children.  I work closely with our program staff to integrate program and policy work as we build our advocacy network among organizational partners. It’s absolutely critical to have voices from people that work in the field and on the front lines to share their experiences with those making decisions about how funding is spent and programs are run.

3.How would you describe a typical day or week in your position? During the legislative session (January-June) I spend most days at the State House. I listen to bills being discussed in committee meetings and follow debate on the floor of the Senate and House. I talk with legislators and other lobbyists about bills we are trying to pass (or block). I also spend time researching similar legislation that has been introduced in other states and data that supports or discredits current proposed legislation.  When we aren’t in session, I continue to spend time researching legislation that we might consider introducing or supporting in the upcoming session and meeting with other groups who are interested in working with us.  For instance, we are working on update current state law to reflect the most recent recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics on how infants and young children should be restrained in a car. Updating this law is very important because these recommendations provide important new research on how to keep kids safe. The closer our law reflects the newer recommendations, the better it can be enforced and the better the chance children will not be injured or killed because they were not in the right car seat or booster seat for their age. 

4.What major challenges and problems do you face and how do you handle them? Part of the biggest challenge of this job is realizing that every organization or group has something that they are passionate about and are asking legislators to support their work. It’s often easy to get lost in the crowd.  You have to keep pushing information to the front so that the issue you are working on gets noticed. You also need strong supporters that will help you along the way. Of course you will always have to deal with people who disagree or don’t see the importance of the work you are doing. A lot of my job is about education. I’m educating the public about why these issues are important so that they can help me in educating their lawmakers to do something about it.

5.What was your biggest accomplishment in this profession? The biggest thing I am most proud of thus far is being a part of a group effort to pass a law establishing school polices to protect student athletes from concussions. While I was new to the work, this group had been together and working on this issue for many legislative sessions. The bill passed this session and was signed into law by the Governor. I was able to attend the signing and see all the hard work pay off, which was very rewarding!

Concussion law signing with Governor 

We find ourselves living in a time where often politics get in the way of policy. Parties are becoming increasingly divisive.  But ideologies aside, I believe there should always be respect given to those who have been elected to public service.  And I will continue to push to put our issues aside so we can do right by our smallest citizens.


Monday, September 23, 2013

21 Days of Happy

Last week was very eventful and included a 48 hour work trip to Baltimore.  Sadly, I did not have the chance to tour the beautiful city but instead spent the entire time in meetings. Which, was a major bummer because I have only been there once before and love some crab legs. But major plus was that I met some really great people working on an exciting project, had a swanky penthouse style hotel room,  all my travel went smoothly, and Randy and Emily made it without me! Definitely a successful trip in my book!

During my downtime at the airport, I spent some time reading and thinking about what I'm now calling (for lack of a better phrase) "my happiness quest." That's not to imply that I'm unhappy but rather looking for opportunities to find happiness in as many experiences as possible and, perhaps more importantly, share happiness with others. I came across this fantastic Ted Talk that hits the nail on the head. If you have time, you have to watch the video. It's quite thought provoking and extremely hilarious.

Through some research and experimenting, Shawn Achor has identified  five proven techniques (ideally done consistently over 21 days) can rewire your brain for happiness. They are:  

"1. Write down three new things you’re grateful for. Your brain learns to hone in on the positives in the world. 
2. Journal about one positive experience. It will feel like you’re reliving it. 
3. Exercise. You teach your brain that your behavior matters. 
4. Meditate. It reduces the noise in your brain and allows you to focus. 
5. Do random acts of kindness."

So, starting today, I am going to kick off my 21 Days of Happy and I'd love for you to join me. I'm going to journal in my "old fashioned" leather bound journal instead of on here. Because, ya know, there are some things I like to keep private. But I will be sure to share highlights here and on Twitter (@moxiemegs) using the hashtag #21daysofhappy. Follow me and we'll share our experiences together and see where we end up on October 13th.

And to kick us off, I have to share I had some wonderfully happy moments from over the weekend. Swinging and giggling with Emily, a beautiful early morning run, time strolling the downtown farmers market with friends, seeing my daughter really getting the hang of walking all by herself, hearing her very clearly say "Mickey" when Mickey Mouse came on the tv, enjoying an uplifting worship service at church, time in the sun at the local park with R&E, and eating a delicious dinner prepared by my sweet husband. Over the course of just two days, I am reminded of how many positive experiences I've had and just how much I have to be thankful for.

Happy journaling, my friends!


Monday, September 16, 2013

Don't Worry....

A little positive post for your Monday morning:

Rise up this morning
Smiled with the rising sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singing sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Saying ("This is my message to you-ou-ou:")

"Don't worry 'bout a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right."
 "Don't worry (don't worry) 'bout a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right!"

-Bob Marley "Three Little Birds"

Saturday, September 14, 2013

All I Want Is You

If I was a flower growing wild and free
All I'd want is you to be my sweet honey bee.
And if I was a tree growing tall and green
All I'd want is you to shade me and be my leaves

If you were a river in the mountains tall,
The rumble of your water would be my call.
If you were the winter, I know I'd be the snow
Just as long as you were with me, when the cold winds blow.

If you were a wink, I'd be a nod
If you were a seed, well I'd be a pod.
If you were the floor, I'd wanna be the rug
And if you were a kiss, I know I'd be a hug

All I want is you, will you stay with me?
Hold me in your arms and sway me like the sea.

-The Vespers "All I Want Is You"

Friday, September 13, 2013

Promises, Not Explanations

On Tuesday, I wrote the beginning of what I hope will be a long series of posts on being positive.  And as it is with many things on this blog, it's personal.

Unfortunately, I've spent big parts of my life being mad at the world, angry at others, and just an all around unhappy person. I could point fingers at those that were to blame and most people would have justified me in feeling that way.  As I've gotten older, I've gained some wisdom and some perspective. As cliche as it is, I know that things could always be worse and I should always be thankful for what I have. I've seen others struggle through far worse and come out stronger than ever imaginable. I'm constantly amazed by those around me who persevere. I just spent the past two days at a work conference hearing from those who work in the field of child abuse. Talk about the epitome of unfair. I've heard stories from adults who survived abuse at the hands of adults who were supposed to love and care for them. I've spoken to those that have investigated and prosecuted those cases in hopes of giving a voice to the voiceless and restoring some sense of justice to an unjust world.  It is in being witness to the struggles of others that my strength has increased.

I know that the experience has a profound impact on the growth of my own strength to push through tough times. But I know that it only grows because the root of my strength lies in God. My trust rests solely in God and I know He will carry us through difficult times. His love is never failing and He is always present.

During the sermon at church this Sunday, our preacher shared a quote that stuck with me: in this life we will not find explanations but we will always find God's promises.

The Bible is full of those promises. My favorite (it hangs on the wall in my bathroom and I look at it every morning) has always been Jeremiah 29:11:

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Trying to find answers to the "whys" in this world will only leave us more frustrated and brokenhearted. Because there are no answers to those questions in this life. But there is something much, much better. God's promise. His promise that YOU are taken care of by HIM. That He has amazing plans for you, better that ones you or I could ever dream up. That even in the midst of the struggle and the uncertainly, there is hope. And that's a guarantee. 

So, don't despair. Instead, copy this sentence below, add your name and post in your car, on your computer, on your bathroom mirror or fridge. Then make a copy, add the name of a friend who is struggling and share it with them.

For God knows the plans He has for you, ________________. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Take heart. Better days are just ahead.