The Doctor is IN

Keen Observations on Life … Whether You Need Them or Not


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Great advice from the keynote

screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-12-12-19-pmThis morning I had the pleasure of going to the Durham Technical Community College 2016 Scholarship Breakfast. Sometimes it’s nice to be the only Sickles in town … I had a lovely breakfast, and got to sit with this year’s scholarship recipient and her mom.

All of the speakers were interesting, but Vinnay Khanna, the keynote speaker, was particularly extraordinary. He spoke of meeting the Dalai Lama as a child, and kicked off his conversation with thoughts on not letting others dissuade you from setting (or pursuing) lofty goals. He shared three substantive pieces of advice, and I want to pass them on. These work for short- and long-term goals.

  1. Have lofty goals.
  2. Work hard. Even if you’re the most gifted person in the world, why would you not work hard? “Set your goals so high that you have to fail. Don’t set them so low that you succeed.”
  3. Don’t worry about others. Don’t let other people discourage you from aiming high. Where you have been is not as important as where you are heading now.

So … what lofty goals do YOU have planned for today?


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Me and Elvis: A Life Experiences Afternoon

I had the best day yesterday.

And it’s all thanks to my friend, Bonnie-Clare, who asked me to photograph a raucous special event at Life Experiences where her niece is employed. A colleague of BC’s has a side entertainment business, and man did he get the crowd going. I left with a smile on my face and lightness in my heart.

life_experiencesLife Experiences is a non-profit organization that offers a choice of satisfying work experiences for adults with varying disabilities, and at the same time allows those adults the self-esteem of earning a wage for their work. According to their Web site, they’re currently accepting applications. If you or someone you know has a disability and is interested in building self-esteem through work, contact them at 919-467-1973 to arrange for a visit soon.


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Red Ribbon, yo!

SF3Though I gave a passing nod to my RED RIBBON from the 2013 North Carolina State Fair last week on Facebook, I wanted to write a little more about it here. This was the third time I entered the same Almond-Brandy pound cake, an action my sister-in-law found incredulous (“how can you give away half of that cake!”) and my mother found utterly charming (“you know, some people enter their green beans for fifty years and never win anything!”). I, on the other hand, found it to be extraordinarily satisfying. And fun. And a little kitschy.

Here’s what I included with my recipe:

“This cake is a family favorite! It’s reminiscent of my wedding cake nineteen years ago, which makes my husband happy … and I use my Granny Duck’s tube pan from 1947, which makes my mother happy. And making a cake that brings such enjoyment and nostalgia to my family makes me happy. A success all around!”

The first two years I delivered the cake, I didn’t place at all.

In 2010, it was labeled incorrectly. Since my recipe uses baking soda and flavorings (brandy and almond extract, among other yummy secretness), it’s actually a “mock pound cake;” not realizing the difference, I mislabeled it as a “true pound cake.” The blue-haired ladies accepting submissions made no attempt to help me rectify the situation. I think they just didn’t want a young whippersnapper like me to place. Whatever, yo. I labeled it correctly in 2011, but the mister theorized the slight was the result of another jab from the blue-hairs. I was sidelined in 2012 with my TBI recovery (and bad memory … and forgetting to register). So we all had an extra year to stew and plot and plan. What a bonus!

Retro RitaThis year, I baked the cake on a damp day, which made it super tall and fluffy. Really, it was a beautiful as it was tasty. But my true secret weapon: my mother delivered the cake to the table. Her beautiful silver hair blinded the bluest of the blue haired ladies, silencing them on the spot with her spectacular coiffure. I think it let the cake speak for itself rather than giving the volunteers time to focus on my young badassness.

To the 33 cake testers who enjoyed my cake: thanks for the great taste. 🙂 I’m perfectly satisfied with second place … red is, after all, my favorite color. To my husband and his genius idea to let Rah-Rah deliver the cake: two gold stars! And to my mother: may your halo of silver sassiness shine until the end of days.


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Ninth Grade Advice: Build An Effective Online Presence

This morning, I was one of four panelists in the AHS AOIT presentations on soft skills. My topic was Establishing and Building an Online Presence, and I focused on using technology to build a good resume and personal platform. Talk about FUN. Those kids were totally interesting.

I suppose I could resent the term “soft skills,” but I choose instead to embrace the importance of its theory: the skills that either get you in the door or keep you there. Soft skills are your people skills, and they are a nuance — aspects of your personality that allow you to excel with problem solving, teamwork and adaptability. Critical thinking is a soft skill, and it’s a critical piece of the puzzle, man. The world is full of computer programmers and doctors and CEO’s; what it needs is effective, charismatic, engaging communicators. Some things you’re born with, plain and simple. So take these diamonds of wisdom for what they’re worth … and they are diamonds, people. There’s some good stuff here.

Online PresenceRemember: this discussion was for ninth graders in the NAF’s number one AOIT academy in the nation. These kids breathe awesome. But they’re 14 and 15, and just starting out in terms of considering their future selves. To this point, most of the kids counted as their social media presence apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Snapchat, and Tumblr, so we focused on LinkedIn and WordPress, and the death of paper resumes.

My great friend, Angela Connor, used to be the managing editor at GOLO while we were both with Capitol Broadcasting Company. She is awesome, and is now the Senior Vice President | Group Director at Capstrat. I reached out to her for a little sage advice to share with the kids. What follows are some take-away tips from her thoughts and mine, in no particular order.

  • Your online self is NOT different from your real-life self. Protect it.
  •  “When someone Google’s you, you want to be 100% sure that they will find information that has been provided and updated by you. You don’t want them to find all of the pictures you’ve been tagged in on Facebook or Instagram that don’t put you in the best light. Even though you don’t trust the privacy settings, be sure to set them. If there is an option for you to approve something before it posts, do it.” – AC
  • “Treat your online presence like a resume.”  – AC
  • Establish yourself as an expert and thought leader. Even at your age, you have something important to say.
  • It’s never too early for you (AOIT students) to begin building your LinkedIn profile. By the end of your first semester in ninth grade, you will have three professional Microsoft Certifications (Outlook, Word, Excel). By the time you graduate from high school in 2017, you will add to that certifications in SAS, Cisco, C+, along with programming skills in Visual Basic, and a formal internship. You will enter college leaps and bounds ahead of the curve. THAT is the basis for a spectacular online resume. Using things like LinkedIn make it easier to network, and that makes it easier to get where you want to be.
  • Once you publish your first comment online, anywhere, you’re in the system. Every Tweet is stored in the US Library of Congress, if that tells you anything, so remember that the hurtful comment you posted about your ex-boyfriend or that embarrassing party photo you Instagrammed, or the questionable racially biased video you shared on Reddit is lurking somewhere, like the Lost Ark. Until you have a substantial work history, the only thing potential employers or colleges have to go on with a Google search is your online profile. Do you want to look like a jackass, or a rock star? Protect your image.
  • “If you are passionate about a subject or gifted in a certain area, consider creating a blog about it.”  – AC
  • Remember: never trust privacy settings. If you wouldn’t want a prospective employer to see it, don’t post it. And if you wouldn’t say it to your parents or a friend face-to-face, you should probably rethink posting it online.
  • Everything you have to say is worthwhile. Every opinion you have, every question, every observation is worthy. Just because you’re 14 and 15 does NOT mean you are inconsequential or unimportant to the conversation at hand. Develop your voice and learn how to present it through a personal blog. Using a tool, like WordPress, for blogging and as a Web site (with different pages) is a great way to build your blueprint. It’s free and easy, always accessible, and under your control. Post your resume and references there; add a portfolio and lots of visuals. Make it stand out and impressionable. And always keep your mother in mind. Think: would I show this to my mother? If no, then maybe you need to rethink your approach.
  • YOU are millennials! Think about it: you are the high school graduating class of 2017, and the college graduating class of 2021 … that, in and of itself, is pretty badass. Use the technology at your fingertips and that which will come along in the future, to your best advantage. How can you best represent yourself when you aren’t there in person? What will make you memorable?
  • Consider a Living Resume … by the way, I just found this on Pinterest and think it is Awesome with a capital A!
  • Build a strong LinkedIn profile, and keep it current.
  • Reverse engineer your resume and training. When you find a career that’s interesting, find somebody in the world who has that job. Look at their education, look at the skills they list in their resume/profile, and figure out how to add them to your bag of tricks. Google universities that offer that course of study; find community colleges or corporations that provide industry certifications; contact professionals in the industry and ask them to be a mentor or for advice. Who knows: YOU might be the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.

And if you’ve gotten this far, here’s a note to parents: know what your kids are doing online. Listen to the social media sites they talk about and join them, too. There’s a big difference in participating and policing. You don’t have to be Big Brother to help guide your kids in their natural progression to a more technological world. Like I said above: they’re millennial. They’ve got to live up to their names.


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Show Some Cougar Pride: Become an Apex High School Cougar Club Sponsor Today

FAQ_image (Large)cougar_club_logo_132x130During my son’s first year in high school, I decided to get involved however I could. For our family, that meant joining the Advisory Board for the Academy of Information Technology (AOIT) and volunteering to find sponsors for the Cougar Club, Apex High School’s athletic support club (we’ve got a sprinter).

I’ve spent years of my professional career working in non-profit, raising funds and awareness for issues near and dear to my heart: supporting my fellow North Carolinians living with HIV/AIDS, who often suffer from homelessness and addiction. The arts. Reproductive Rights. Women’s rights. Voter’s rights. LGBT rights. Humanities and social sciences. So it never occurred to me to donate any time or money to athletics. When I give money to my alumni association at NCSU each year, I give it where I want it to count the most: CHASS. Those athletics programs have money coming out the wazoo. Right?

In North Carolina high school athletics, that is NOT correct. It may come as a surprise to learn that the Apex High School athletic program receives, in total from Wake County Public School System, $850. The majority of the balance of its athletic budget—$160,000—is made up of Corporate and Community Sponsors, donations, and concession sales, all managed through the Apex Cougar Club. That $850, plus whatever the Cougar Club raises, supports nearly 1,000 student athletes at Apex High School.

According to the WCPSS Web site: “Beginning with the 2001-02 school year through the spring sports season of 2013, WCPSS schools have won 124 state championships (61 women, 63 men). Coe said WCPSS had 16,292 student athletes participate in high school athletics this year.” Student athletes work hard to maintain a fair balance of athletics and academics. These young adults tend to be healthier, more involved in their school life, and grow up to be more active adults.

So I’m casting my net as far as I can reach in the hopes that I may catch some donors interested in sponsoring the Apex High School Cougar Club. Prices are affordable, and range from $200 – $2,000 for 10 months of academic year advertising! Are you more interested in trading in-kind things, like computers for statistics, sporting goods, meals for visiting coaches, etc.? They’ll take it! There are tons of opportunities to support the dozens of organized sports that will occur during the 2013-14 academic school year. Cougar Club sponsor dollars went really far last year. The mobile app used was used an average of 60 times a day, for a total of 15,854 page views. Actually, the mobile app was used an average of 170 times each Friday during the fall football season. Each sponsor ad was viewed 3,700 times, and the sponsor splash ads were viewed 13,321 times. Broken down, 1,102 unique users on iPhones, iPads and Android devices got your daily message. It’s cheaper per day/week/month than running print, radio or online ads through major media outlets … and that’s great news!

Donations are tax-deductible, they’re helpful for our student athletes, and they’re good for your karma. Think of the number of Apex High School students and their families who would be thrilled to see the support of your local business at the hundreds of sporting events that will occur during the 2013-14 academic school year. Check out the FAQ, and let me know if you’d like to become a sponsor. Payment can be made in the form of a check that you can mail in, or through PayPal. Quick and easy. Low carbon footprint, high marketing output.

You can leave a comment below, or you can contact me through my volunteer e-mail address: dolly [dot] sickles [at] apex cougar club [dot] org. Of course, no spaces. 🙂

DOWNLOAD the complete Apex Cougar Club Patron FAQ, with sponsor levels, here.

Spread the word. Thanks!


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Socializing on the other side of the fence

ncstateUNC … Here I come.

I’m excited to return to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as one of the guest speakers for their Social Media, Writing, and Publishing Careers Meet Up on February 26.  I had a great time mixing and mingling with students and other professionals last year. What a great way to help students to learn more about specific occupations and career areas in the wide, wide world of humanities.

Even the brightest CEO in the world, the most gifted surgeon, the most visionary techno whiz … would not be able to succeed without communicating their intentions. I will fight the urge to wear my NCSU shirt, but will proudly represent my fellow language artists as we try to bring another generation of humanities students to the dark side … because, as some genius said somewhere in the world that was captured and propagated around the Internet: we have cookies.

Go humanities!


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Hopeful Thoughts for World AIDS Day … Again

IMG_9618 (Large)I left my position of grantwriter and public affairs officer for a large HIV/AIDS service organization in 2010, and I am disheartened by a story on CNN this week about the increase in HIV rates in young people:

Almost a quarter of new HIV cases are seen in young people, and more than half of them don’t know they’re infected, says a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

According to the report, more than 12,000 new cases occurred in young people aged 13 to 24 in 2010, and close to 60% of them did not know their HIV status.

“That so many young people become infected with HIV each year is a preventable tragedy,” wrote CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden in the report.

What this tells me is that young people are not using condoms. They’re spreading, and being infected with, HIV disease through oral, vaginal and anal sex, or intravenous drug use. It tells me that abstinence only sex education in schools continues to NOT work. It tells me that these young people are not learning the biology of the spread of disease at home or at school. It tells me that there’s an information fatigue in these great United States, where we are afforded everything, about condom usage, reproductive responsibility and planning, and STD-prevention. Yet right this very moment, over 1.2 million people in the US are living with HIV Disease.

Few babies are born HIV positive any more, which means that these young people are contracting this communicable disease. Prevention is actually very simple: wear a condom EVERY time you have sexual intercourse, either vaginally or anally. Choose your partners wisely and exchange sexual histories BEFORE you engage in any sexual activity … and better yet, participate responsibly and safely in a monogamous relationship. GET TESTED REGULARLY … KNOW YOUR STATUS. Do not share needles if you are an intravenous drug user–which, I should not have to stress, you need to stop/never engage in to begin with. If you are, then ask about needle exchange programs in your community. If you are a pregnant mother with HIV disease, there are options to help prevent the spread of HIV through childbirth and through breast milk to your child.

Remember: if you don’t have HIV disease, then you need to learn how to not get it. If you have HIV disease, then you need to learn how to not spread it. Prevention is the key to continuing to reduce the number of new HIV infections in your community, the US, and in the world.

If your church congregation is not involved in HIV ministry, then go to your pastor and ask why not. People living with HIV disease are not bad; they have not all participated in risky behavior that brought on their infection. Ask the countless number of adults who’s spouses are unfaithful and fail to use condoms in the process; ask they number of young people who have yet to “go all the way” who become infected. HIV spreads through secretions in semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk; through needles (intravenous drug use, accidental needle sticks, etc.). It can infect and affect every single person on the planet; it is blind to race, culture, religion, and creed. It is a disease of the least: affecting the people who have the lease money, the least secure housing, the least nutrition, the least money, the least health … the least education.

Like the Prez says: “Creating an AIDS-free generation is a shared responsibility. Talk to your children, even though the conversation will be uncomfortable and probably embarrassing. Teach them to know why they will or won’t wait … and it has to be more than “I said so,” or “Jesus said so.” Give them the facts; our kids are smart, they’re savvy, and they’re more mature than you think they are. Equip them to have the real scientific, biological facts on their side. You can do it!

EDUCATE YOURSELF


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Support Your Community: Shop Small on Saturday

When I was a kid, my mother and I were the only two in our family living in North Carolina, so we spent decades of my life traveling to Norfolk and Virginia Beach to be with family on holidays. Thanksgiving was no different, and we had so much fun. As a single mother, my mom only got bare-bones holidays off, so Thanksgiving day was our travel day.

Which meant that Thanksgiving Friday, we piled in the car with my Granny Duck, my aunt and two cousins (it was tight with six of us … thank God for bench front seats) and hit the “big” mall: Lynnhaven, in Virginia Beach. Those days are a blur of exhaustion, shopping bags and packages, Sbarro pizza and pasta, and Mother’s Records. Man, those were the days.

But those days are gone. When my soul mate and I had our son 14 years ago, I put the kibosh on traveling at Christmas. Thanksgiving, on the other hand, is typically at my MILs half an hour away, or at my SILs in Charlotte. And nobody in either location is likely to get up at 5 am for Black Friday sales. Thank you baby Jesus.

Adult Me is way smarter and more efficient than Youth Me, and Adult Me plans out shopping through the year for the holidays so no rush on what the world now calls Black Friday is necessary.

I LOVE, love, love the whole concept of Small Business Saturday, however, and welcome the change of pace. I love keeping my dollars in my community and supporting local craftspeople and artisans. I love dining in community restaurants where I’m likely to run into folks I know. I love being able to leave our cars in the garage and bike or walk to a local business to reduce our carbon footprint. Don’t get me wrong: I also believe in global commerce. But on Small Business Saturday, I happily embrace the power of local.

American Express has a handy Web tool that allows you to search for businesses in your community who are participating in Small Business Saturday. Check it out, then check them out. Happy local shopping!

PS. While you’re considering what gifts to buy for the holidays, you might consider donating to your local homeless shelter or food bank in someone else’s name. Or supporting your local national public radio stations (we are sustainers at WUNC and WCPE). The arts could also use a bolster, and season memberships are a wonderful way to share a gift with a loved one while supporting your local museum, performing arts theatre, or symphony.

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Sustaining @WUNC is A Family Affair

The fall 2012 fundraiser for our local NPR affiliate, WUNC 91.5 FM, has just finished, but I wanted to make sure I posted this sustainer testimonial my husband and son did in the spring (2012) … they recorded it the week before we headed to Sedona and the Grand Canyon, both in Arizona, for a Spring Break week of hiking.

– – > LISTEN: Sustainer Testimonial, Matt and Peyton Sickles

Our hiking week is a vacation we will never forget, and the three of us were able to log thousands of miles on our boots, and countless laughs with hundreds of stories told on the trails. But, because we flew out days after the boys recorded their Sustainer spots for WUNC, we never had the chance to hear them. Three different versions ran throughout the spring 2012 fundraising drive (the one Peyton recorded about his favorite show, Snap Judgment, even warranted a personal message from Glynn Washington). It was fun to return home to messages from friends telling us about hearing the spots. They were shocked, to say the least, to hear my beloved boys talking to them.

As Sustainers, we are able to contribute to our local public radio station to insure the continuance of local and national programs like the State of Things, Car Talk, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, A Prairie Home Companion, Fresh Air, All Things ConsideredThe People’s Pharmacy, Snap Judgment (our son’s favorite), and Back Porch Music (where I first heard The Carolina Chocolate Drops). We chose to donate a dollar a day, because we wake up to the news every day, and have the Saturday morning regulars playing in the background while we’re reading the paper, having brunch, and enjoying our Saturday mornings.

And even though the fall 2012 fundraising drive for WUNC has already wrapped,  it’s never too late to contact them with support. Take a listen to why we choose to support WUNC. I’d be interested to know why you do, too. Or, more to the point, why you don’t.

Peyton used his phone to take pictures on the trip, which meant that when Glynn Washington’s thank you note came in, we saw it right away. Exciting news, to get in the Sedona Mountains in Broken Arrow Canyon. Not your everyday occurrence.

PS: special thanks to Regina Yeager and the WUNC Web master for loading the testimonial on Sound Cloud so we could capture and share it.


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You Can’t Campaign Forever

I don’t typically write overly political posts on my blog. Why cram my political philosophy down your throat in large doses, right. Plus, I’m a firm believer in putting your money where your mouth is, and am happy to let my actions speak for me. As a writer, that concept also works well: show, don’t tell.

But I am moved to comment after reading an opinion piece written this week for The Washington Post by Bob Dole in homage to his colleague and friend, George McGovern:  George McGovern, the man who never gave up. It’s based on a decades-old epiphany from Bob Dole … surprisingly, it prompted my own.

These men—who have tangential similarities in their lives (Midwestern upbringing, both soldiers in WWII)—are as different as night and day. Yet at the funeral for former First Lady Pat Nixon in 1993, Dole asked McGovern how he could bring himself to attend and McGovern said simply, “You can’t keep on campaigning forever.”

*headslap*

Dole reflected, in regards to his efforts to defeat McGovern’s run for the White House in 1972, “When the election was over, however, George and I knew that we couldn’t keep on campaigning forever. We also knew that what we had in common was far more important than our different political philosophies.”

Most prominent was a shared desire to eliminate hunger. So they put their money where their mouths were and got to work. Together … across the aisle … for the good of the people in our country and around the world.

“As colleagues in the 1970s on the Senate Hunger and Human Needs Committee, we worked together to reform the Food Stamp Program, expand the domestic  school lunch program and establish the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants and Children. ” Their efforts went on to become the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education Program.

McGovern was appointed as an ambassador to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, and he promptly brought in Dole to help develop programs and policies. They were awarded the World Food Prize in 2008, and walked arm-in-arm when called up to the stage.

It can be done, people: working together for the good of our fellow citizens in these United States and across the world. To our US Senators and Representatives: put on your big girl panties and get to work. Stop bitching and moaning and fighting in the name of your party. We are ALL Americans. And once the elections are over, YOU have to work together for US. You can’t campaign forever.