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Ruth Carter

If I Were a Minimalist in High School

Kristin at Buzzfeed did a video recently where she followed different high school dress codes for a week. At first, this made me wonder if I could follow my high school alma mater’s dress code but that it made me wonder how I would have been different if I had been a minimalist when I was a high school student.

Oh yes - That's my sophomore year picture, Fall 1994.

Oh yes – That’s my sophomore year picture, Fall 1994.

I went to a Catholic high school in Northern California, and our dress code was fairly strict – no shorts, no shirts with writing or images on them, and no open toed shoes were some of the restrictions. If I were the confident self-accepting person I am today back then, I think I would have gone the Jobs/Zuckerberg route and had a personal uniform that I would where every day. Judging by my current closet, probably would be blue jeans and a dark gray v-neck T-shirt. I can picture my childhood closet with 5 matching T-shirts, 2 pairs of jeans, and a solid-colored hoodie for cold days. The only things that might have changed day-to-day would have been the color of my underwear and socks, which shoes I wore, and whether I wore jewelry and/or make-up.

Given my experience with shaving my head this summer, I could easily see myself going through high school with a shaved head – or as close to it as the school’s dress code would allow. (Students weren’t supposed to shave their heads, but some guys would do it over summer break. It would be unfair for the school to punish them for something they did during vacation.)

I can rock the bald head. Photo by Devon C. Adams Photography, used with permission

I can rock the bald head. Photo by Devon C. Adams Photography, used with permission

If I were a minimalist in high school, I wouldn’t be surprised if I used a capsule wardrobe, inspired by Project 333, for the rest of my clothes. A person doesn’t need many material goods to be happy, so why accumulate it? I am not sure if I would apply the same minimalist rules to my leotard collection. As a gymnast, I had about 2 dozen beautiful leotards and I loved them, but I also wonder what it would have been like to have 6 matching leotards that I would have worn each night to practice. Some people might wonder if it would have been weird or boring; I wonder if it would have been a badass.

If I were a minimalist in high school, I would have done a lot more and a lot less with my time. I would hope that I would understand that school was my job, and accepted that there were a lot of classes that were required for graduation but pointless for my life – like literature (most fiction does nothing for me because it’s not real, especially really old fiction) and religion (I’m Agnostic). I would have cared even less about school spirit days and other functions and cared more about spending time with the people I liked. I suspected I would have done more, with less, and been happier and put more energy into developing myself as a person.

What’s in a Name?

“I’m trying to reach Ruthie Carter… Ruthie has been recommended to me by Mary and Jeff. If she could give me a call back …”

Yup – that was the message that was left on my law firm’s voicemail last night that went to the firm’s partners and our receptionist. I wonder if any of them are going to notice that the caller used my nickname and not my legal name.

When I was in my 20’s I was much more strict about only using “Ruth” in my professional life. I worked at an agency where it wasn’t uncommon to see friends and acquaintances who called me “Ruthie.” If I met you in a social setting, I didn’t care which name you used, but with work colleagues, it was always “Ruth” never “Ruthie.” On more than one occasion, I had to correct our receptionists who tried to get away with using my nickname.

As a lawyer, I always refer to myself as “Ruth” and everyone seems to go with it. This voicemail may be the first time a non-friend referred to me as “Ruthie.” In the caller’s defense, Mary and Jeff call me “Ruthie” so it makes sense – but it was weird to hear. I had to listen to it twice to verify that she said what I thought she said.

Who hires “Ruthie the lawyer?” While mulling this over, I was reminded of the Buzzfeed videos where men shared their impressions of common feminine names and women share their impressions for masculine names.  It was interesting to hear their views of variations of the same name:

So what does this mean for me and all the Ruths of the world?

  • Ruth is an old stuff Jewish woman (but she also might be the one who mutters the funniest things under her breath). (We’re sassy.)
  • Ruthie is a four year-old child with pigtails.

My friend said if Dora the Explorer had a lawyer character on her show, her name would be Ruthie.

Rosie: Dominating the Dog Park

I live in a dog-friendly complex. A group of resident – including Rosie and me – regularly hang out in the center courtyard and let our dogs play. There’s nothing like the sound of a basset bark or watching Rosie try to keep up with the other dogs with her stubby legs. When they run in circles, she always takes the inside track.

Rosie and the Rope Toy - Trooping Home

Rosie and the Rope Toy – Trooping Home

Often when someone brings a dog toy to these gatherings, it becomes communally owned, and at the end of the play session, it will be left on the grass for other dogs to play with. The same is true for big sticks we find near and around the complex.

Rosie doesn’t care for dog toys except sticks and ice cubes. She loves to chew on these. Besides giving them a cursory sniff, she generally ignores tennis balls, Frisbees, and the like. I was surprised to see her pick up a rope toy the other day during our morning walk. She scooped it up and triumphantly trotted home with it in her mouth where she promptly dropped it on one of her beds and left it there for the rest of the day.

That afternoon, I grabbed the toy as we headed out for her afternoon stroll, and I tossed it back into the grass. Rosie didn’t seem phased by this. She ignored the toy and took herself on a smell tour of the area, until it was time to head back into the house. As she crossed the lawn, she picked up the toy nonchalantly and carried it back to our condo again – where she dropped it on our doorstep.

She doesn’t play with this toy. She doesn’t chew on it. She just brings it home and drops it – almost every time we go out for the last five days. Does she do this to flaunt her dominance over the other dogs? She may not be able to keep it up with them when it comes to running, but she can control their rope toy.

Rosie’s such a funny dog. Follow her on Instagram to see more of her adventures.

Which Pronouns Do You Prefer?

Have you ever thought about which pronouns you prefer? In the U.S., a child is referred to as she/her or he/him based on their biological sex. Why does this culture feel the need to divide people based on genitalia? It’s weird.

Nametags with Pronouns by Ted Eytan from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Nametags with Pronouns by Ted Eytan from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Would you be offended if someone referred to you as the opposite gender than your biological sex? Why? I asked my neighbor Ana this question, and she said it would be offensive because she would interpret it as someone not acknowledging what she knows to be true about herself. That made sense to me. Asking a person which pronouns they prefer is really asking the person, “What is the respectful way to refer to you (including when I talk about you behind your back)?”

At some LGBT groups, including One-n-Ten in the Phoenix area, at the beginning of each meeting, everyone introduces themselves by first name and what pronouns they prefer. Including this information in the introductions not only provides a platform for each person to disclose their pronoun preference, but also acknowledges that gender is a non-binary social construct.

Photo by Devon C. Adams Photography, used with permission

Photo by Devon C. Adams Photography, used with permission

I’m somewhat gender non-conforming socially (always have been, always will be), but biologically speaking, I’m female. One of the advantages of being bisexual is I don’t feel obligated to conform to any social constructs regarding gender or sexual orientation. In my wardrobe, I have beautiful dresses and neckties (yes, I can tie a full Windsor knot by myself); and my underwire bra is right next to my chest binder. My appearance ranges from very feminine to androgynous, and I don’t feel obligated to act any particular way.

I considered the pronoun question for myself. Given the option to be referred to as she/her, he/him, they/them, I’m fine with any of those (as long as the person is speaking respectfully), though I prefer she/her/he/him to they/them because they acknowledge me as a singular person. Although they/them are used as plural pronouns, they can be used to for individuals too. Perhaps this is the best option we have in American English for a gender neutral pronoun.

And of course, as a Starfleet officer, I prefer “sir” over “ma’am,” though I won’t correct a person if they’re just trying to be polite.

Which pronouns do you prefer?

Every Post Is Not About You

Yesterday’s blog post focused on posting with integrity. If you have something to say, say it. Otherwise, it’s better to be quiet than to make ambiguous statements.

Breathe Deeply by Amanda Hirsch from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Breathe Deeply by Amanda Hirsch from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Let’s look at the flip side: Every vague statement on the internet is not about you.

When I became a blogger, I learned early on that I had to grow a thick skin. By sharing my thoughts and ideas, I became a target. It hurts every time someone attacks me, and not just my perspective.

Whenever I read a vague post, my default is it’s not about me because the people whose opinions I value, don’t make vague posts. If they have something to say to me or about a community I belong to, they say it. Likewise, I try to do the same for them.

This and yesterday’s post was inspired by a person who was confronted by their supervisor at work because a coworker assumed a vague post what about them. If you insist on making unclear posts, you can expect that sensitive people may assume it’s about them – which shows their insecurity more than anything. Nevertheless, there are a few ways to respond to such an accusation.

A fellow prankster had an awesome sign at one of Improv AZ’s Fake Protests that said, “Stupid Should Hurt.” I love that saying. The world would be a better place if being thoughtless were physically painful. If this was the post that upset a coworker, I can think of two ways to respond to a confrontation by a superior:

“What makes coworker think this is about them?

“Does coworker think they’re the only stupid person on the planet?”
“So you admit the post is about them?”
“No, but by complaining about such a vague post, coworker revealed that they think they are stupid or have insecurities about being perceived as such.”

I’m not sure I would be so bold to respond so audaciously, but there’s a reason I don’t work in corporate America anymore. I would hope that the supervisor would respond to the complaint by challenging the coworker before asking the commenter about it. Managing a team includes managing feelings and being a rationalizing force, not just overseeing job tasks.

That being said, this situation highlights why it’s imperative to treat every post as if it will end up on a billboard. There is no expectation of privacy in anything you post online and you never know when you by be confronted with a past post.

Post with Integrity

Someone made a comment on a blog post I wrote about the importance of having a social media policy at work:

I posted something to my FB page not mentioning any names or directed at anyone in particular. It was also vague on subject. Today my supervisor brought a printed picture of it to me because apparently someone saw it and thought it was about them. It has nothing to do with them or work. Can he control what I say on my own page especially if it makes no reference to specific people or work or subjects?

I have two thoughts in response to this comment:
1. To the upset coworker: Don’t assume every vague post on the internet is about you.
2. To the commenter: Why are you making posts that are so ambiguous that there is confusing what message you’re attempting to convey?

Honesty. Trust. Respect. Love. Good rule to follow in business and in life. by Zaneology from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Honesty. Trust. Respect. Love. Good rule to follow in business and in life. by Zaneology from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Here’s my rule for myself:

  • If you have something to say, say it.
  • Otherwise, keep your thoughts to yourself.
  • If what you want to post is so unclear that the reader cannot discern who or what you’re talking about, you’re essentially making noise.
  • It’s ok to be quiet.

My mentor Rocky instilled a strong sense of integrity in me and my teammates. He taught us to be willing own what we say in every situation – don’t lie and don’t hide the ball. He was not always gracious with his words, but everyone around him knew where he stood. His lessons on integrity formed the basis for my personal rules about what I post on social media – I’ll own anything I’ve posted in any situation.

By being succinct and direct, posts have more impact. It’s possible to take an opposing view without calling out a specific person – like my fervent posts about people who don’t return their shopping carts and how people who don’t vote forfeit their right to bitch.

Post with integrity. If I’m tempted to be nebulous about what I’m trying to say because of potential repercussions, that’s a sign to keep my thoughts to myself.

“Nothing pays off like restraint of tongue and pen,” and keyboard.

Tomorrow’s post will present the flip-side view: Don’t assume everything you read online is about you.

Rosie’s Adventures at Camp

Happiness is having Rosie home.

I had to send Rosie to the kennel (aka “camp”) when the air conditioner went out. After the A/C went out on Sunday night, I packed up Rosie’s medications and food, put her in her car harness, and drove her to camp where she got to chill in their climate control environment and enjoy extra playtime and puppy happy hour. It was so weird to be home for two days without having to walk her or watch where I was going. I had never been home that long without her.

Rosie does fine at the kennel, which is part of our vet’s office, and she sleeps most of the time she’s there. I ordered extra bedding for her so her dense 67-pound body would be comfortable. One of the things I like about this kennel is I can always call for an update. At the end of the first day, the tech told me how Rosie used her paws and nose to manipulate her blankets to create a nest for herself before falling asleep. That’s my Rosie.

Rosie's so happy to be home, resting after gallivanting with the neighborhood dogs.

Rosie’s so happy to be home, resting after gallivanting with the neighborhood dogs.

Expecting Rosie to be home by Tuesday night, I only packed three meals of kibble and chopped chicken for her. (Yes, I’m a pescatarian and I still cook chicken for my dog.) Normally when I take Rosie to camp, she gets the standard kibble the staff gives all the dogs whose parents didn’t pack meals. It’s the same brand of kibble she gets at home. I felt bad for her for this trip, so I packed meals for her too.

The tech fed Rosie on Wednesday morning before I picked her up. Apparently, when they put down her bowl of plain kibble, she looked up at the tech as if to say, “What the fuck is this?” and went back to bed. I think we’ve created a precedent that all future trips to camp will include her standard meals, with cubes of baked chicken.

The highlight of every trip to camp is picking Rosie up to come home. I have the techs put her in her car harness before bringing her out. Rosie is a mellow docile dog who sleeps most of the time when she’s at camp, but the moment she sees that harness, she jumps to life and whines to be taken out. It was so cute to see her pull the tech down the hall to the lobby where she bounded through the door, barking her head off. There was a collective “Awh” from the front desk staff as dog and owner were reunited.

It’s so good to have her home again – back to our usual routine of walks, treats, and lots of pets. If you’re interested in keeping up with Rosie’s adventures, follow her on Instagram.

Adventures in Adulting – Arizona Style

It’s 5:30pm on Sunday. What’s that puddle in the hallway?

Saguaro Monsoon Sunset by Michael Mifall from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Saguaro Monsoon Sunset by Michael Mifall from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Oh shit! The air conditioner is dripping! That can’t be good. Quick – turn off the clothes dryer and the other heat sources in the house. Turn up the ceiling fans!

Thank god for home warranties. I can place a service call 24/7. Should I call them or use the website? Definitely calling – this is an emergency.

The polite call center worker submits my order to dispatch and informs me, “Someone will get back to you within 24 hours.”

24 hours?! It was over 110 degrees today! What are you talking about 24 hours? I want someone here now! The operator says it can take up to 24 hours, but sometimes dispatch responds within 5 minutes. There’s only so much she can do from behind her screen, probably in the midwest somewhere. She thanks me for not yelling at her.

Thank goodness we’re past the worst of the heat for the day. Will we have to stay in a hotel tonight? I hope not, but just in case, I find a dog-friendly hotel on Bring Fido. Rosie is priority number one. I can take a lot more heat than she can, than I would ever subject her to. Wasn’t there a guy who opted not to use his A/C for a year? I’d never ask Rosie to do that.

I have appointments tomorrow. I can’t leave Rosie at home. I leave a voicemail at the vet which is also our kennel.

How did people live in Arizona before air conditioning?

Love this Dog

Love this Dog

It’s 6:45. The sun’s going down. It’s only 85 degrees in the condo. We’ll be ok tonight, but tomorrow Rosie’s going to “camp” until the A/C gets fixed. She’ll have a temperature-controlled indoor kennel with extra bedding, playtime, and puppy happy hour.

It turns out the soonest I could get an appointment is Wednesday morning. It’s so weird to be home without Rosie. I don’t mind that I’m covered in sweat. Spritzing my head and shirt make it more bearable. Hopefully it will only be one more night before I’m relaxing under the gentle whirl of the air conditioner and Rosie laying at my feet.

90 Days of Hustle

Last year, I declared that June-August, 2015 would be the 90 Days of Awesome. That was a good exercise for me – helped me maintain perspective. This summer, Rosie and I are staying in Arizona again (at least that’s the plan so far) and we’re calling it 90 Days of Hustle.

In case you missed it, I shaved my head. Photo by Devon Christopher Adams

In case you missed it, I shaved my head. Photo by Devon Christopher Adams, used with permission

By “hustle” I don’t mean the Gary Vaynerchuk work 18-hours/day hustle, though I admire his tenacity and work ethic. My hustle has more of a holistic focus – personal and professional development – working on being the best version of myself.

More and more, I realize the most valuable asset I have is time, and I want to use it well. I want to get up early and go running at sunrise. I plan to read more books and see more friends. Even though I say I hate it, I want to do more stretching so, if nothing else, I can do more as a model. (I did two awesome photo shoots over Memorial Day weekend. I can’t wait to see the images.)

I’m going to be working on new creative projects this summer. I’m not being obtuse by not telling you what they are; I’m still mulling over where I want to put my energy first. I am giving myself the gift of time and space to develop ideas and write more.

This summer will be about quality, not quantity. (This also means I won’t do daily posts like I did last year, but I still want to do weekly posts.)

And, of course, during the Olympics, everything gets put on hold when I’m watching the gymnastics . . . because it’s gymnastics.

End Gender-Based Socialization & Segregation

We can all pee in the same bathroom.

With the recent wave of anti-LGBT laws considered and passed in the U.S., and people losing their minds about which bathroom people should use, I’ve been thinking about the concept of gender. Besides the fact that sperm and egg are needed for reproduction and biological, hormonal, and chromosomal differences between the various sexes (there are more than two you know), why is gender even an issue? Why do we have social differences, segregation, or even gender identity in any aspect of life?

Why can’t we just be people?

Is this a boy or a girl? Who cares? Let the kid be happy. Hop, Skip and a Jump. by peasap from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Is this a boy or a girl? Who cares? Let the kid be happy.
Hop, Skip and a Jump. by peasap from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Look at babies. If a baby is wearing clothes, I can’t tell what type of genitals it has – and I don’t care. All babies have the same basic needs: food, shelter, care, and love. The only difference I can think of between the sexes, is the location of their urethra because some brands of diapers have extra absorbent sections based on that. Beyond that, there’s no difference between a male and a female baby. I’m going to carry it around like a football until it cries, and then it goes back to the parent.

It’s amazing to see how kids are socialized differently based on gender at such a young age. Looking back, I wonder why schools make students line up by gender. Why segregate when we can integrate.

Speaking of segregation, prepubescent kids have the same body shape. Why do we have different sections for boys’ and girls’ clothing? Just have a children’s section and let them wear whatever they want regardless of color or style. There’s nothing wrong with a boy wearing a dress or a girl wearing a Spiderman costume. Ditto for toys. I’m so glad Hasbro adopted gender-neutral marketing for its easy-bake oven because a little boy who loved to bake was too embarrassed to play with a “girl” toy.

I’m pleased to see that some people are more progressive and accepting. My friend’s sons go to dance class and for the performance, each child got to pick their costume – pants or a dress. One boy opted for the pants, the other picked the dress – and he was so cute!

And does anyone else think it’s weird that was have different size charts for men’s and women’s shoes? There are gender-neutral shoes – like my Converse Chuck Taylors – and apparently stores have to re-label the boxes to help customers avoid confusion. It’s strange that my foot is a size 8.5 but if I had a penis, it would be a size 7. I have no issue shopping in the men’s section for any garment or accessory if that’s where the store put the product I want.

To circle back to the “bathroom issue” (as long as you wash your hands, I don’t care which bathroom you use), I think every public place should have gender neutral bathrooms with water closets for stalls. Each stall has walls that extend from ceiling to floor and regular lockable doors. Liberty Market restaurant has this arrangement and they have one of the coolest bathrooms in the U.S.

Gender-neutral bathrooms will eliminate problems related to helping a loved one in the restroom, men’s room without changing tables, and long lines for the ladies’ room while there’s no wait for the men’s. We’ll also reinforce the notion that boys and girls, men and women, are equal.