Defeat is Another Opportunity To Practice Being Prepared

Defeat is Another Opportunity To Practice Being Prepared


I am not a flawless Creator.

The last time I threw my life a curve on purpose was in 1994. Unlike a baseball pitcher practicing how to toss a curve ball, this life decision had no practice runs.

I had to win.

They say that when you ask for something you want through prayer, dreams, during meditation or those debates with your guardians and angels during long car rides, it will come to pass when all the pieces are agreed to and there is time to assemble the best outcome.

Or you can just go get the Golden Retriever puppy you have been wanting and show up at the house with it. I did that too one time.

In 1994 I went out to find me. I got tired of waiting for my big reveal.

I asked for a divorce from a man everyone loved and who was not only kind, but a devoted father and hard worker. We got along well. Even lived together while separating. We hired a divorce mediator who let us write our agreement, which I typed up on my home computer using WordPerfect. I didn’t ask for child support or alimony. He got the house. I moved out to a small condo down the road.

I had no job.

Looking back, I may have been testing myself. I didn’t know who I was, or what I was capable of. I was my own version of a software application in development, whose first business requirement was survival.

The Whole World is Here

They say we have a life purpose. There are those moments when you know the Universe is working on your game plan and, like any good coach, It shoves you out onto the playing field when it’s your turn to play. You can ignore Coach if you want to. I’m sure I missed many plays, which explains why practice sessions are so vital. You want to succeed, right?

When I saw the internet for the very first time, in 1994, I said out loud, “The whole world is here!” I could think of nothing better than to meet everyone. Since then, my career is tied to that one pivotal moment. Remember that scene in the movie, “Field of Dreams”, when the ball field is all lit up at night and players who have passed on come out to throw the ball around?

That was me back then, walking onto the field.

I had no idea how to play the game, but I knew I would learn. My own personal mantra is carved into my soul. It is this: “Don’t underestimate me.” It comes in handy from all that practice with failures or rejections. When Coach turns to me and signals me to come over, I’m not always feeling ready, but defeat is another opportunity to practice being prepared.

Since the web makes it possible to know each other, I learned things like:

1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions from people you think are smarter than you. They are. So what. That’s why you want to ask them your questions.

2. Always be humble and kind.

3. Spell check. Grammar check. Repeat.

4. Never assume anything. Ever.

5. Some people may always judge you.

6. How to make a dream catcher, macramé, make a podcast and learn Angular. Not necessarily in that order.

7. The internet is forever-net. There are no take backs.

8. Google will change its mind. Often.

9. “Build it and they will come” is not a practical business requirement for web development.

10. A little shift in the wind can make the football bounce off the goal post.

That last one is important for me now.

Today I find myself standing at another crossroad. I have been working on a new personal career plan for myself for the past 3 years. There have been practice runs, like interviewing for jobs and being told I’m too old or overly qualified. I closed the online web design and marketing community I founded in 1998 after a twenty year run. Getting my hands into source code and teaching myself more difficult skills has both challenged and delighted me.

With all the inspirational and educational resources available on the web, there is no end to finding help when I need it. I’ve had many career successes and achievements, but when I tried to compile them into one place, I realized I never had the ego to record it all. This is because these achievements were always the direct result of having a mentor who believed in me, especially in those most crucial moments when I needed them to.

I took the phrase, “We create our reality”, to heart when I first read that statement somewhere back in the 1980’s. I’m not a flawless creator, but I try to show grace in disappointments and humor during pain, such as when I had my knees replaced. My PT therapists giggled whenever I referred to my left knee as “Hope”, because it was the first knee to be replaced and responded like a champ. Five weeks later, my right knee was replaced and fought the process, so I named it “Despair.” This pretty sums up those times when I kick myself towards another goal. There is hope. And there is despair.

It’s not easy to aim high. This is how I know that experience is my teacher and how fortunate I am to be open to the journey.

My tattoos are inside my skin.

Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

Originally published in Medium February 18, 2019

What I Learned From the Job I Didn’t Get

What I Learned From the Job I Didn’t Get


For five weeks I put all client work on hold, went food and sleep deprived, and put on my Jessica Jones shoes and Super Woman mind-set to chase a job that was out of my reach.

Nevertheless, I pursued this job and set up a direct, ongoing dialog with the Universe about my progress. If I saw one of the red cardinals living on our country farm three times, that would mean I got the job. (Spoiler alert — He appeared twice.)

I have been a consultant since the day in 2002 when I was laid off from my job as a Software QA Usability Engineer and hired six hours later as a sub-contractor to test a call center software application for AT&T WorldNet. From that moment on, I powered through any barrier presented to me to learn whatever I needed to complete any job I was hired for.

Other than the two years when I accepted an invitation to work at a company that wanted help with offering usability services, I have been self employed and working from home. I am extremely disciplined working remotely. In fact, I’m on call 24/7 and holidays and routinely work overtime to meet deadlines. I haven’t taken a vacation since 2008.

It was a risk to apply for the position because the last three times I tried to leave consulting ended in confidence shattering disasters. In one, I was over qualified and knew more than the people interviewing me. For another one I needed a design portfolio. I perform site audits and test web sites and online applications. I even sketch mock-ups. Somebody else codes. So that was an interview fail.

Another try was to conduct accessibility testing for a series of apps. I spent a week creating example test plans, but the role went to a larger company, who I heard later quit.

Dream Job

Finally there was this dream job that appeared. I have a specific set of criteria that are needed before I consider a full time job. It must be remote. I want to be encouraged to learn new skills and the team needs to be as passionate as I am about the work.

This last attempt to jump into a full time job was with a major global corporation for a job I desperately wanted. I wasn’t hired.

The first reason was exactly what I had tried to convey to them all along, which is that I am not a product designer with a portfolio I am allowed to show. It makes no difference how many famous websites I’ve tested, audited or redesigned. They are all under confidentiality contracts as work I performed as a sub-contractor. I couldn’t prove that I know what goes where, why, how, when and for who without a way to demonstrate it.

I started the process on January 16. The final interview of a series of several was on February 14. On February 15 I knew I didn’t get the job. However, it was not until February 21 that I officially heard back. For a week I waited for the red cardinal to give me hope.

Applicants are given access to an online job tracking system where they can submit their resume, track the jobs they apply for and check on their status. The position I applied for was removed during the interview process and re-posted back to the public the day after my interview. Waiting for the official word, while seeing the answer online, was agony.

Of the 8 people who interviewed me, one was someone in the field that I admired and hoped to learn from. I wondered if that was a critical mistake on my part.

In addition to not having the required design portfolio proving my worth, the other reason I was given for not being offered the job was not having direct experience with a methodology specific to development cycles that as a consultant I’m not part of. I knew I needed the portfolio, but was surprised at the second reason because it was not in the job description.

As time went on I realized that I needed an advanced level of skills for a role where I was hoping to gain experience and the chance to learn and apply those advanced skills. My legendary passion for inclusive user experience design was never going to be enough.

Observations from The Field Less Followed

1. There isn’t a job role called “over achiever”.

2. There isn’t a job skill for “works too much”, “dedicated”, “passionate”, “bat shit crazy”.

3. Companies waste money hiring for projects that are not properly thought out.

4. If one person on the interviewing team doesn’t want you, that’s the end of the ballgame.

5. Not having a portfolio is like gambling with no money. You’re perceived as clueless.

6. Believing that you are of lesser importance than those interviewing you is wrong.

7. Never allow an interview process to go on too long.

8. Don’t dangle the carrot in front of a job applicant who is a “maybe”. I was a “definitely not”, who needed to be put out of my misery much sooner.

9. I learned what I didn’t know that I didn’t know and enrolled in courses to get the shiny newer knowingness.

10. Don’t put all your hopes in red cardinals.

In some circles people know me. That happens when you own a global community for 20 years for web designers, as I did, or write columns or speak at conferences, as I did.

I’m nobody when I look for a job to advance in my career. Every job opening that interested me, that I was willing to leave consulting, my brand, my friends, my community and my clients to chase after, presented me with all new people that I hoped to get to know and work with.

I may never have the courage to try and do that again.

Photo by Rose Elena on Unsplash

Originally published in Medium Feb 25, 2019

I Am The Warrior

I Am The Warrior


The rule was simple. When you left home, you didn’t return. It was now five years later. I knew the answer would be no.

The year was 1981. Everything I owned fit into my 1971 Toyota Corolla, including a cedar hope chest and my cat with seven toes on each paw, Abby Normal. I was homeless, jobless, alone and had just driven from Ocean City, NJ to a phone booth in Pennsylvania.

There was a small white church in the town I drove to, situated along the Delaware River on the “Pennsy Side” as we used to say. A short drive north would have led me to the Frenchtown bridge over the river to get from Pennsylvania to New Jersey. I no longer recall why I drove to that town or that phone booth.

It was summer and hot outside. I probably had no money and called collect.

“Mom?” I said, when she answered from her house 2.5 hours away. I was estranged from my parents and had been for years. It is a long story.

“Mom, can I come home?” my voice wavered.

The rule was simple. When you left home, you didn’t return. Period. Three months after turning 19 years old, I had left. It was now five years later. I knew the answer would be no.

My mother sobbed gently and said, “Thank God.” I no longer recall the rest of the conversation. All that sticks is her reaction of relief. It meant she loved me. I was sure I’d tested that and highly doubted I deserved it.

That day, 38 years ago, my hope chest, cat and I drove to central PA and I went to live with my sister. We were not exactly friends, and she was not exactly thrilled I was dumped on her doorstep, but that phone call was the first step I ever made to save my own soul.

Jessica Jones

I thought Wonder Woman was weak and too girly girl.

Growing up, I had no female hero to emulate. I knew no tough women. I didn’t even know any pissed off women. I knew abused women, addicted women, control freak women and women who wore masks hiding who they really were.

It was the 60’s and 70’s. Bell bottoms, long hair, rock concerts, Viet Nam war, hash, acid, Nixon, Neil Young and Readers Digest. And horses. I had my gray gelding, Nelson and could ride and show the horses at the stable next door. I wrote poetry and short stories and dreamed of being a journalist.

Looking back is like staring at a painting with swirling colors and brush strokes that form nothing because there are no lines to follow.

And yet I was in there, somewhere.

There was no warrior spirit inside me back then.

I’m writing this because I wish that someone would have explained to me that I could have been a warrior. That there was not, nor ever would be, any possible reason for me to feel powerless. That under no circumstances should I ever sell my soul to anyone for any price. That escaping anything unpleasant, by adapting to something else unpleasant, is not a solution.

That it is okay to speak up and make sure you are heard. And by that I mean that the listener is actually paying attention and not off in their own mind discounting everything you are saying.

In season three of Jessica Jones on Netflix, she loses her spleen and her sister gets powers that make her a hero like Jessica is. Except that Jessica doesn’t see herself as a hero. She just happens to be really physically strong and she cares about injustice. She is also grumpy. All the time. I love her grumpy.

I macramé as a hobby and to sell. My larger pieces are made while binge watching Netflix shows. Each piece that hangs in my gallery is assigned a name, like Jessica Jones Season One.

It’s not that the grumpy goes into my art. It’s that my inner warrior gets her chance to weave peacefully for hours and each time a new macramé piece is completed, I have assimilated more warrior spirit into my being. A warrior requires time to brood, create energy and store it for the future when she saves the world. Or herself.

A warrior has courage and strength. She is not powerless. She fights for her dreams, visions, and any goal she wants to manifest. No relationship or situation can bring her to her knees in despair.

A warrior recognizes bullshit when it presents itself. You don’t lie to a warrior. If you say you want a warrior to be happy, shut up. Saying it and actually doing what it takes, are two completely different things. Never corner or isolate a warrior woman.

The worst possible thing you can say to a warrior is “No, you can’t.” She will.

I didn’t know I had a warrior spirit until I had reached an ending and was forced to swallow my pride. There was nowhere else to go. I had one last hope that I was still loved, no matter what. Despite everything I did, and would do again, loving me was extremely difficult to do.

Love Me From Behind

I rebelled every time I was told what to do, how to be, where to go, and when I could be me, which was never, because I was not abiding by rules.

It is not helpful to stand directly in front of a rebel spirit even when your intentions are good. A rebel has to fall. It’s hell to bear witness to a rebel.

A friend told me a story about her daughter who survived addiction, bad decisions, poverty and sufferings of her own doing. The mother did everything she could to help, but she was in the way. Her efforts only served to create more agony for both of them. She couldn’t save her daughter from falling.

Her daughter explained to her mother that she could fall and feel safe each time because she always knew her mother loved her to her left side, her right side and her backside. No matter what, the daughter knew she was loved.

It was when her mother loved her by standing in front of her that was the problem. This was when the daughter pushed back. She didn’t want to be loved there. She had to learn her lessons in her own way. She chose a harsh path in doing so, but she came to realize that her mother would always be there if she needed her and she told her mom that this was the most powerful support she could have given her.

A warrior deserves to be loved on her own terms.

Are you a warrior?

I am a warrior. She screams and swears and pounds her own insides so that she doesn’t do any damage to anyone around her. By the time she arrives to fight, she has beat herself up pretty well. I doubt she is supposed to do that.

I don’t remember when my warrior spirit decided to show up. Maybe it took a pile of life lesson punches to draw her out. Everyone probably has a warrior spirit inside them somewhere.

I’m still learning how to live with mine.

Originally published in Medium July 9, 2019

Do You Want to Be THAT Website?


It came as a huge surprise to everyone expect me and five other people that websites still are not user friendly.

Interacting with badly built websites may not be routine for most of you, but for disabled people, this is how it is. Every single day.

“The 1.3 billion living with disabilities worldwide are no stranger to the kind of exclusion the coronavirus has forced on the rest of the population.” —

Quarantine? Check. Isolation? Check. Unemployed? Check.

Slow web connection?

This is my world. It is this way for my friends who also live in rural areas where fast internet access is not provided or too expensive to even hope for.

I was fine working from my home office until my husband was forced to work from home when his employer designated that everyone work remotely to avoid being exposed to Covid19.

Every day we fight over whose computers get to be turned on and need to plan in advance when to schedule meetings, uploads, downloads, and the simple act of booting up a laptop. I rise at dawn sometimes so that I can make local backups of websites and listen to my favorite Podcasts.

You can forget about Roku during work hours. In fact, we have one TV operating by the antenna spread eagled on the roof of the house that gives us access to 2 local channels on a clear day.

This is the new normal for us.

It is the same old normal for many other people.

They are the people I work for.

It is my job to help companies develop websites that work for everyone who wants to use them. 

Since 2000, by my estimates I have reviewed 350 websites and been part of a team of designers for about 200 more, not counting software apps. If you were to count the enterprise level website properties with gobs of pages, I have taken countless thousands of web pages for test drives.

The most alarming verticals that fail are state and local government websites, followed by retail.  Which is all the more concerning since government websites in most countries must meet accessibility laws.

Public facing websites, the group which the rest of our websites fall into, are up for grabs as far as being accessible, usable, searchable, and mobile.

Content Management Systems

There are two kinds of Content Management Systems, Proprietary and Over the Counter. Neither of them gives designers complete access because we are not provided with the keys to open the doors.

Over the counter web designers have been building websites based on a model that leaves us co-dependent on the vision and expertise of the theme designer, and an annual renewal fee.

Proprietary CMS are lively situations guarded by their inventors who have all the code living inside their head and dies with them, or if they are let go for any reason from the company, the ship has no Captain.

Regardless of the way the website is born, if we could GET to the source code, we could add ARIA labels to social media icons in WordPress templates to tell screen readers that yes, that is a Facebook link and icon and next to is Twitter.

If we could GET to the source code we could edit code ourselves without the need for a plugin whose job it is to break into the site with a coat hanger, roll down the window part way and let us pry open a tiny spot to edit.

Such luxuries like custom code are for those who want to pass every guideline and score 100 on every web page test.

And who know that lurking behind every innocent user is that one person who is viewing every page with a browser webmaster tools window open studying your code for imperfections.

I see you.

Teenage Stage

I realized the other day that web design patterns start out with great expectations.

Take, for example, your first Halloween adventures as children, when the costumes were hand made by someone who loves you and you were excited to wear it. This is what many websites start out as.

They are mere babies with their site owners cooing and showing them off as they parade them around the neighborhood.

After a few years, the costume is not as important as hanging out with your friends and counting your overloaded king size pillowcase candy haul. Websites at this stage are maintained by someone else now and you are drinking shots at the Ti-Ki bar, telling your friends how awesome your business is doing online and how you do not even need to be doing anything.

The final phase of a website is the teenager age, when you don’t even bother to put on a costume or if you do, it is a hat or maybe eyeliner and the adults shoo you away from the porch because, they say, you’re way too old to be out trick or treating.

These are the websites left on the internet gasping for air and ever so slowly breaking apart because their theme, CMS software and plugins are no longer updated. But they show up in searches and when users arrive, they immediately leave because the website has outgrown its usefulness, and nobody wants to spend half the day battling your outdated version of reality.

If you do not want to be THAT website, you will need buck up and get your act together.

It Takes a Tribe

Let me assure you that if you opt for free help, the risk is not hiring people with skills. Hiring one person to design, maintain, and promote your website  indicates your lack of knowledge about what website ownership is.

Somebody needs to tell you the truth and it may as well be me.

I am happy to teach you what you need to know, but it has been my experience that teaching people who think they know more than you do is a lost cause.

It is like being a parent during the years just before your kid graduates high school and leaves for college and they and their friends know WAY more than you do about FREAKING EVERYTHING.

It will cost money to put a business on a website and introduce it to the world, or the next town.

What is the first step?

Making a commitment. Find people you trust. Let them do their jobs.

Do your own research into what website ownership is. If your business website is not built properly, you might end up with an ADA lawsuit because it was not designed for disabled persons.

It may not show up in search engines. Your brand may not become a household name because there is no plan to tell anyone it exits.

The competition is crazy on the web. It is not like leasing a small shop in town or working out of your garage, shed, studio, backyard, or barn.

Your website is DOA unless you invest the time, interest, money, and desire to keep it running.

The possible edge is that so many website owners gave up and what we are witnessing now are websites that many people cannot use.

Do not be THAT website.