Today is my brother Billy's 35th birthday. Just two months ago, we didn't think he'd make it past 34.
At the end of January, he went to the E.R. for back pain. They discovered he had a herniated disc...but they also discovered something much worse--Stage 4 Metastatic Lung Cancer.
The past few months have been an emotional roller coast for our family and our friends. The cancer was discovered so suddenly and things went downhill more quickly than anyone could ever have imagined. There were some really dark days.
We have been blessed with additional time because they found a genetic mutation; he is doing a targeted therapy that has given him back a year or two with quality of life. Each day brings new challenges, but he's happy and grateful to have more time to spend with Noah (10) and Sophia (5).
Billy is now able to care for himself, but he's unable to work. Money is tight and life is not fair.
In honor of his birthday, I'm going to ask you to skip your Starbucks today. Instead, how about making a donation? His work ohana set up a GoFundMe to help with his medical and living expenses.
CLICK HERE TO HELP SUPPORT BILLY DURING THIS BATTLE.
You've seen my Twitter and Instagram posts about reading. You may have even seen my 2017 and 2018 reading lists on this blog. But do you know why I read so obsessively? It's not solely for my love of reading and learning (although that definitely plays a role)—it's because there was a point when I couldn't read.
Let's start at the beginning. I grew up with a love of reading, inherited from my mom. She read to us constantly, and I believe that is that foundation for my love of books. I could read before most of my classmates, even though I was the youngest in the class. I was embarrassed when my first grade teacher would make me read to the class for storytime, but also a little proud.
As a child and teen, I always had my nose in a book. I wore out the pages of Anne of Green Gables, and, owned nearly every Babysitters Club book, thanks to my older cousin Abigail who had outgrown them. Nights were often spent reading the Little House on the Prairie series with my mom. Books filled my birthday and Christmas wish lists.
But in my late 20s and early 30s, my eyes were exhausted from working all day on a computer. Of course, I still read, but not with the voracity that had previously consumed me. A book here, a book there. Maybe one a month, but probably less if I'm being honest. I was busy living my best life.
Then came May 2016 when I had a traumatic brain injury (TBI). I was in denial about the seriousness of it all for a long time (and sometimes I still am); more realistically, my brain was unable to process that I couldn't do the things I used to do. I was off work for a long time, and didn't understand why. I was unable to write any kind of cohesive sentence, and couldn't focus for more than a few minutes at a time.
Most devastatingly, I couldn't read. Yes, I could see the words and I knew what they meant. But I could not process more than a page at a time. The words would jump around on the page—nothing made sense. And I definitely could not remember what I had read a few paragraphs before so it would take me around five minutes or more to read one page. I don't know if you could even call it reading a page, because I would inevitably forget what I had read within minutes. This was not the brain I was used to. This was not my brain.
My doctor suggested trying books on tape. I tried, but could only listen for around 10 minutes at a time before I would lose all comprehension. Reading, even auditory "reading", was a painstakingly slow process. My ability to read quickly and comprehend easily was something I was so proud of, and I had lost that ability nearly entirely. At one point, the doctors weren't sure I'd ever be able to go back to an office job because they couldn't guarantee that my reading and writing abilities would ever return to where they were prior to the TBI.
After several months of not being allowed to work, I returned to the office. It was a painful process; I was exhausted all of the time. Using your brain, especially when it's broken, depletes so much of your energy. I would get home from work, and go to sleep within an hour or two. But, slowly, it started to get easier. I wasn't transposing words as much as I used to; my newly developed stutter was subsiding. Every day, I was able to process more and more.
I was listening to a lot of podcasts, which were easier for me to comprehend than audiobooks. Then I started listening to more audiobooks and—slowly but surely—my attention span and comprehension increased. Then one day in late 2016, I opened a book a friend had given me to read once I was feeling up to it--Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple. It took me awhile to get through it, longer than I was used to. But it awakened something within me. That love of reading that I once had slowly started to return.
Once I started reading, I couldn't stop. I started visiting the library again, checking out a few books at a time, and making my way through them faster than I'd imagined. I decided I would read 25 books in 2017, but I knew I could do better. So I challenged myself to read 50; an ambitious goal, one that I knew I probably wouldn't meet, but one I was excited about. I didn't meet that goal in 2017, and was two books short in 2018. But none of that mattered to me. I was—and am—so damn proud of myself for how far I've come. To go from not being able to read a single page in mid-2016 to reading over 48 books in 2018 is an accomplishment I'll treasure, goals be damned.
I guess that old cliche is true, if you love something, set it free, and if it comes back to you, it's yours to keep. Looks like I'm stuck with books and my love of reading forever, and that's a-okay with me!
Author's Note: All of this is something I've never shared with anyone outside of my immediate family and a few close friends. It's scary to even put it down on paper, because all of the memories—the struggles, the sadness, the frustration—come flooding back; it's a place I hope I never have to return to.
What I've written today is just a small portion of the struggles I experienced with my TBI, and, maybe one day, I'll be ready to share more of the story. But, today, I'm sharing this part with you in the hopes that it helps someone else who is struggling with a TBI or a learning disorder or anything that prevents them from doing what they love. There is hope at the end of the tunnel, and things do get better. It hasn't been any easy road, but it's a road worth taking.
As you know from last year, I'm a huge book nerd. I love to read. But I also forget how much I've read. So for the second year, I'm keeping track here.
Here's what I've ready in 2018, and I've asterisked my favorites so you can add them to your 2019 reading lists.
January - 4 Books
A Stitch of Time by Lauren Marks
I'm Fine...and other lies by Whitney Cummings
Lucky Charming by Kate Chastain*
Unqualified by Anna Faris
February - 5 Books
I Was Saved By The Bell: Stories of Life, Love, and Dreams That Do Come True by Peter Engel
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo*
The Actor's Life: A Survival Guide by Jenna Fischer
The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel
Behind Closed Doors: A Novel by B.A. Paris*
March - 5 Books
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz*
Pretty Girls: A Novel by Karin Slaughter
Superconsumers: A Simple, Speedy, and Sustainable Path to Superior Growth by Eddie Yoon
I Can't Make This Up: Life Lessons by Kevin Hart with Neil Strauss
April - 4 Books
The Breakdown by B.A. Paris
Scranton Lace by Margot Douaihy
Lead Your Tribe, Love Your Work by Piyush Patel*
The New Neighbors by Simon Lelic
May - 3 Books
Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
The Party by Robyn Harding
Go Set A Watchman By Harper Lee*
June - 3 Books
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris
July - 2 Books
Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman
Billy Blockade by Stephen King*
August - 4 Books
Believe Me by JP Delaney
I Let You Go by Claire Mackintosh
Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell
A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena
September - 7 Books
The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish*
So Close to Being the Sh*t Ya'll Don't Even Know by Retta
The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell
Running Against the Tide by Captain Lee*
An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena
October - 5 Books
The Demonologist: The Extraordinary Career of Ed & Lorraine Warren by Gerald Brittle
Map of Days: The Fourth Novel if Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent
Final Girls by Riley Sager*
The Merciless by Danielle Vega
November - 2 Books
The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
Suck It, Wonder Woman! by Olivia Munn
December - 4 Books
I Don't Know Where You Know Me From by Judy Greer
Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation by Aisha Tyler
The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel*
Bond Girl by Erin Duffy
Most of you know Margot Douaihy—and if you don't, you're missing out. Today is, unfortunately, her last day as Content Director of AVTechnology Magazine. I can't be too sad about it because she's staying on as Editor-at-Large, and is pursuing her dreams of being an independent storyteller.
Margot has come to be more than a co-worker to me: she's a friend, work wife, and mentor. Basically, when I grow up, I want to be her. So, on her last day as a full-time Future plc employee, here is a tribute to Miss Margot Douaihy and her many amazing qualities.
Passion Margot is one of the most passionate people I know. And she's not passionate about just one thing—she puts her heart and soul into every single thing she does. It's evident in her work. She can talk for hours about AV-over-IP, blockchain and bitcoins...all the things most people would find mundane. Not only does Margot make herself an expert, she is genuinely interested in all of those subjects. Her passion is evident in her writing. Want to see for yourself? Click here to read articles she's authored for AVTechnology Magazine.
Kindness You will not find a kinder soul than Margot's. She is genuinely interested in helping people. When I first started at Systems Contractor News, I called Margot nearly every hour on the hour with a question. She never made me feel stupid (and, trust me, some of my questions were stupid); she patiently took the time to answer each and every question I had. She's the best friend you'll ever have—one of the few people I know I can call any day, any time when I am in need of an ear to bend.
Mentor Margot is a mentor to many. She never fails to pass along her wisdom. She doesn't hold her lessons learn close to her chest; she shares them with the world so others can learn from her experiences. Margot has shown me what it truly means to be a journalist, and how to be vulnerable, honest, and inclusive. She's helped me handle the tough stories and showed me how to report the truth in difficult situations. And I know for a fact that she's helped others because she just won the 2018 Mattera Mentorship Award; this award honors "leaders who excel in mentoring and helping to shape the careers of less experienced colleagues."
Educator Educator and mentor go hand-in-hand. You can't be one without the other, and Margot is the epitome of both. Fun fact: Margot serves as a Lecturer and Advisor at Franklin Piece University in Rindge, NH. With her new found free time, I have no doubt we will see Margot teaching many AV classes at shows like InfoComm and Integrated Systems Europe (ISE). She will definitely be dropping all kinds of knowledge bombs at the SCN Think Tank and AV/IT Summit in San Jose on April 19th. And, yes, that is a semi-shameless plug.
#RESIST No matter what side of the political fence you fall on, you have to appreciate someone who fights for what they believe in...and actively works toward making the world a better place. Combine Margot's sense of social justice with her innate passion, and, as The Killers would say, "She's got soul but she's not a soldier."
So, cheers to you, Margot. Looking forward to watching where you go with life's next adventure!
It's Valentine's Day and I'm full of cheesey mushiness. I even posted about love on the SCN blog!
Rolling with my #GladtoBeHere attitude and practicing gratefulness, I thought I'd list out some things I love.
This is obviously obvious. Sid's a cool dude. He treats me well, makes me laugh, and is a total tech nerd.
Rory, our chiweenie, has a mind of her own. She makes me laugh every single day. Whether she's following me around the house like a shadow or begging me for a belly rub, she's just a "happy happy girl" as my family likes to say. I love her spunky attitude.
Sophia & Noah
Speaking of spunky attitudes and making me laugh, if you've met me even once, you've probably heard me talk about my four-year-old niece, Sophia Bee. She has an Auntie-Megan sized attitude and a heart of gold. And then there's her older brother, Noah. He's nine and still lets me read to him. He's got jokes. He's as curious as a cat. He loves crystals. He's one of my favorite humans.
I need nature. If I go a week or two without a long walk in the woods, my soul gets crunchy. Spending time with the trees makes my heart soar. Add in some mountains and I've died and gone to heaven.
I'm sure you know by now how much I love to read. Case-in-point--last year's reading of over 41 books. Right before I started this blog, I was snuggled up on the couch (with Rory, obviously) diving into A Man Called Ove.
Terrible Reality TV Shows
I'd be embarrassed to name some of the TV shows I watch. Let me rephrase that: I should be embarrassed to name some of the TV shows I watch. Love After Lockup, Below Deck, and Vanderpump Rules to name a few. Sid will literally leave the room if he catches me watching these. But they're the perfect time to just let my brain go and have some mindless laughs.
Kinda weird but water is my favorite beverage. Pretty much the only thing I drink (except for the occasional orange or apple juice) and I just LOVE IT SO MUCH! Oh, and I love lakes and the ocean. But I'm mostly talking about that yummy Chicago tap water.
Wow. This list is a little weird. But that's okay because I am, too! So here's to having a lovely Valentine's Day with your favorite weirdo. :)
My 2018 Word of the Year is explore.
Find out what explore means to me:
I'm a huge bibliophile. A self-admitted book nerd. I read a lot. Like, a lot, a lot. I read so much most years I couldn't even tell you half the books I've read. So this year, I'm going to try something different and list all my books in one place.
Here's what I've read in 2017:
January - 7 Books
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Rockettes, Rockstars and Rockbottom by Keltie Colleen
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
The Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
Drinking & Tweeting by Brandi Glanville
Sorry Not Sorry by Naya Rivera
February - 5 Books
Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrik
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Southern Education of a Jersey Girl by Jamie Primak Sullivan
The Regulars by Georgia Clark
Yes, My Accent is Real by Kunal Nayyar
March - 3 Books
Where Am I Now by Mara Wilson
Tony & Susan by Austin Wright
Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
April - 3 Books
Someday Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham
All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson
May - 3 Books
The Girl Before by JP Delaney
Searching for John Hughes by Jason Diamond
Beartown: a novel by Fredrick Backman
June - 2 Books
I See You by Clare Mackintosh
Garlic and Sapphires: The secret life of a critic in disguise by Ruth Reichl
July - 5 Books
The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector's Story by Hyeonseo Lee
I'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid
Good as Gone by Amy Gentry
How to Be a Grown-Up by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
The Forgetting Time: A Novel by Sharon Guskin
August - 4 Books
The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda
Ali in Wonderland: And Other Tall Tales by Alexandra Wentworth
The Rules Do Not Apply: A Memoir by Ariel Levy
In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
September - 2 Books
According to a Source by Abby Stern
The Girl with All The Gifts by M.R. Carey
October - 3 Books
You House is on Fire, All Your Children Are Gone by Stefan Kiesbye
Come Closer by Sara Gran
My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
November - 3 Books
Always A Bridesmaid (For Hire) by Jen Glantz
The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King & Owen King
December - 1 Book
Lucky Charming by Kate Chastain
Why do some women criticize and block other women at every turn?
We'll start with a quick story that inspired this blog...I was recently named Women in Consumer Technology's 2018 Woman to Watch (YEAH, GO ME!), an honor that both thrilled and excited me. My euphoria was almost immediately crashed when I heard through the grapevine, from multiple sources, that another woman was bashing me to industry associates saying "Megan's part of a group of girls that all just nominate each other for awards and that's how they win awards."
My immediate reaction was not one of anger, but one of sorrow. I'm sorry that this woman doesn't have any awesome group of women supporting her and building her up.
Do I have an awesome lady gang in the AV industry? ABSOLUTELY.
Do I nominate other women for industry awards? HECK YES. But do you know why I do it? Not because they're woman or they're my friends—I do it because they deserve it. And *spoileralert* if they weren't worthy, they wouldn't be winning.
I've been in this industry for almost a dozen years, and I've met a plethora of women willing to help build me up in all ways. They've been there to strategize on the latest marketing techniques, work together on making our industry associations stronger, talk me through countless career hurdles, and even to share personal stories of heartbreak and triumph outside the office.
Now that I'm a little older, and a little wiser, I've had the privilege of being a mentor to younger women just beginning their AV careers. Getting a little corny, if they can believe it, they can achieve it, and I'm there to help them achieve it, not to take credit for them, or tear them down.
I guess what I'm saying is this: there's room for all of us at the top; let's build each other up instead of tearing each other down. We're in a male-dominated industry—we don't need discord and separations, we need to band together.
Next time you're angry about the accomplishments of another woman, turn that frown upside down, and be genuinely happy for them. Give her a call, text, e-mail, and tell her how amazing she is. Share her wins on your social. After all, what's good for the goose is good for the gander.
P.S. If you haven't cultivated your own awesome girl gang, join one of the many industry groups that have formed. You'll meet some cool people who are happy to have you in their circle.
AVIXA Women's Council
Women in Consumer Technology
Women of Digital Signage
Women of the Channel
P.P.S. Men are always welcome to join and support these groups!
This last week has been wonderful, beyond wonderful, in fact. As I have for the last decade, I spent Thanksgiving with my ohana in Hawaii. We've snuggled up for story time, watched the sunset on the beach, stuffed our faces with turkey, and sang at the top of our lungs. It's magical.
We've settled into a little routine. The kiddos head to school, and, while they're there, I work furiously on writing killer content for the latest issue of SCN (check your mailboxes, the Dec issue is shipping now!). After school, we all hang out and make the most of our time together. Getting to walk a half mile to the beach for an ocean sunset is NOT something I get to do every day, especially a day in late November.
This past weekend, we spent the night at the Wailea Beach Resort (thank you Marriott points!) and had a BLAST! Fun in the sun isn't even an accurate description. Ultra fun? What's 10,000 times better than fun? Whatever it is, that's what we had. The kiddos were in LOVE with the newly renovated pools. Let's be honest, even the adults were in love. The dads ditched us to race down the waterslides too many times to count! The quality time, the views, the entire perfect experience, I'm grateful for it all!
What I'm getting at here (besides all my humble brags), is that I'm REALLY happy with my family and REALLY blessed to have this life. So, in the words of my new friend John "Gucci" Foley, glad to be here.
I recently read an article in The New York Times where Quentin Tarantino was quoted saying "I knew enough to do more than I did." Let me make one thing clear from the start, if you know about sexual harassment/assault, and do NOTHING, you're just as guilty as the perpetrator. It seems as if everyone in Hollywood knew about the Weinstein assaults, yet, it was just accepted - the ultimate example of rape culture.
I work in a male-dominated industry, the audiovisual industry. For the most part, I have been well accepted and treated as a professional. However, like many females, I have experienced sexual harassment. For the first time, I'm going to publicly detail a major incident. I won't name names to protect the guilty.
For about seven years, I worked for a man who sexually harassed a large number of our company's female employees; he was also verbally abusive, but that part wasn't exclusive to women. The first incident I can remember happened about a year after I started at the company. He called six or seven women into a meeting and then proceeded to scream at us - not just yelling, I'm talking vein-popping, tomato red face screaming - followed quickly by the throw of a chair across the room. After this, one of the women went to HR and he was forced to send all of us a formal apology and review sexual harassment guidelines.
Over the next few years, I wanted so desperately to be part of the "boys club" and didn't want to be "that girl" who gets offended over every little thing. So I listened to him go on, sometimes for hours, about his sex life with his wife, his drug-fueled escapades in college, and all kinds of other insane stories that should never be told in the workplace. During this time, I would be randomly yelled at for things that, most of the time, had nothing to do with me. I had been called into HR a few times during this period to confirm incidents I had witnessed between him and other women.
One afternoon, I was told, several times, I was "FUCKING WRONG" about a product spec. (I wasn't actually wrong and I didn't work on the products team so it didn't even apply to me). This incident was so loud that several people went to HR to let them know what happened. Once again, I found myself in HR's office. I had become so conditioned to comply with his behavior that the only thing I would say about it was "we've always had a good working relationship."
At this time, I had started managing several young women. I began to see the impact his behavior was having on them and I didn't like it. One woman told me he had recorded a test video of her and implied he would save it and masturbate to it later at home. This was not okay but we still just accepted it as something we had to deal with. After all, this man had been reported countless times and was never fired.
Then, one day, a drastic incident occurred. I was at a co-worker's desk when I asked her to cut the hanger strap from my shirt. Our boss walked by and said "Oh, look at that purple polka dot bra!" when he caught a glimpse of the bra strap as she cut the hanger strap. We laughed and moved on with our work. Later that day, I was in his office with a male co-worker. Mid-sentence, mid-meeting, he stopped, looked me dead in the eye and said "Are you wear matching panties?" You could have cut the awkward silence with a knife.. I just got out of there are fast as I could and hoped he'd forget about it, deep down knowing this was going to be a long-term topic of conversation for him.
Over the next two weeks, there were multiple references to this incident with him inquiring about my bra. Then it stopped and I thought it was over. Two weeks later, he was at it again. I was humiliated. I started spending 20 extra minutes each morning getting dressed, ensuring there was no way to even catch a glimpse of my undergarments. I began having anxiety attacks driving to the office and couldn't wait to get out of there every day.
I realized I couldn't go on like this and spoke to a trusted male co-worker and friend. He was shocked this was going on, especially since I was known around the office for sticking up for my values, opinions, and beliefs. He encouraged me to take it higher, but, I was terrified. I imagined my boss would get another "slap on the wrist" and I would have to work with him after. I contemplated quitting without even having another job lined up. Luckily, my friend helped me through it and convinced me to speak with the Executive Team.
I first spoke to a Vice President with whom I felt very comfortable and had a congenial relationship. Despite our friendship, it was nearly impossible to get the words out. He immediately went to the President of the company, who was kind as can be as I repeated my story, which I also had to tell HR. I was MORTIFIED having to talk about my undergarments at work, and especially to so many high-level executives. The entire process was humiliating for me., despite all of them being so incredibly understanding as I detailed what had happened.
Luckily for me, the company took swift action this time and he was terminated as soon as he walked into the building the next day. I was later told more details about the process, like how a male co-worker had said he couldn't recall witnessing some of the exchanges because he "didn't want to get involved" or when my harasser said I "showed him my bra," or why HR couldn't understand why I didn't come to them sooner...uhhhhh...because he's never been fired for sexual harassment or verbal abuse and I thought I'd still have to work for him?
While going to work didn't get immediately easier, it got better every day. This situation had a lasting impact on me (and my female co-workers) - I would break into a sweat if I saw the make and model of his car anywhere near me. I saw him once at a tradeshow and immediately hid away in our storage closet so I could ensure he did not approach me.
After all these years, writing this still gives me an "icky" feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was repeatedly told not to discuss it (despite no legal action being taken on my end of theirs), I was repeatedly asked by co-workers why I didn't tell them sooner, and I was told I was being too dramatic about the entire situation. SO many people in the company knew he continuously harassing women, yet, we all accepted it as part of our workplace culture. I'm including myself in that list - I wasn't part of the solution early on, which means I was part of the problem.
Never again will I be silent when I see things like this happening. We need to take action to stop rape culture. None of this is okay. We need to stop the "pussy-grabbers" of the world and let them know we will no longer stand for inappropriate touching, verbal abuse, harassment, etc. It stops now.
Learn about the start of the Me, Too movement here: www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2017/10/19/the-woman-behind-me-too-knew-the-power-of-the-phrase-when-she-created-it-10-years-ago/
Megan A. Dutta