All posts by Carol Robidoux

Professional writer, reporter, journalist, content creator, thinker, spark plug.

Step Up, Stand Out: ‘Outstanding Ladies’ Night at Dyn

Screen shot 2014-04-17 at 12.29.31 PMAn important facet of celebrating Women’s Financial Literacy month is recognizing that it is a year-round pursuit, because there is still a top-down gender gap when it comes to leaders of industry.

Here’s a ladies’ night out you won’t want to miss:

“Standing Up, Standing Out, and Standing Tall” will be held May 14 at Dyn, Inc., 150 Dow St., Tower 1, Manchester, NH, an evening organized by Elizabeth Salas Evans of Charles Schwab-Manchester.

Attendees will hear from female leaders of industry with a common message: promoting access for others while  contributing to change in large and small ways.

What to expect? An evening of inspiring stories, practical tips, and networking aimed at informing and empowering all professionals.

Join NHBR reporter Kathleen Callahan as she interviews a variety of women who are leading industries traditionally dominated by men. Discover how they stand up, stand out, and stay relevant in sectors sometimes unfamiliar with hearing women’s voices.

Panelists Include:

Elaine Hamel – Executive Director of Girls at Work, Inc

Amanda Grappone Osmer – Director of Sales & Owner of Grappone Dealerships 

Allison Grappone – Owner and Founder of Nearbyregistry.com 

Loretta L.C. Brady, Ph.D., APA-CP – Associate Professor, Saint Anselm College; Founder BDS Insight 

Linda Zhang, PH.D. Senior Portfolio Manager & Head of Research at Windhaven Investment Management, Inc. 

Aimée Mosher – Account Executive – Dyn #StandUpStandOut

Tweet and share: #StandUpStandOut

Human Library Project: Don’t judge a book by its cover

What is a Human Library? Like 8 Minute Dating, only completely different.

I know this because I was honored to be asked to participate in the Human Library Project at Goffstown High School as a “book,” and speak with student “readers” interested in a career in writing.

IMG_1901The event, held April 16 at Goffstown High School, was a twist on what has become an international effort to break down barriers and stereotypes. The Human Library Project began a dozen years ago in Copenhagen, Denmark, a response to an act violence, and an effort to build community.

Since then, it’s morphed into whatever a community needs it to be – a bridge toward community building in South Korea, or a spotlight for highlighting the need in Russia for breaking down barriers. You can read more here about the international movement at humanlibraryproject.org.

For the New Hampshire students, it was a chance to meet, one-on-one, with “human books,” people recruited from the community who were there to provide some insight into career choices and talk about how they found their way to doing what they love.

Every time a bell rings, students can move to a new table and “read” a new human book.IMG_1896

The Goffstown High School event was the third in a series of three Human Library Projects organized by school librarian Melissa Mannon, and her colleagues,  Sandy Whipple and Carolyn White Gamtso.

It was a first for New Hampshire.

“I started as a reader at Goffstown Public Library two weeks ago. I was a Human book as the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors (April 15)  at University of New Hampshire at Manchester event. Today I am an organizer at Goffstown High School. This has been a great experience for us all,” said Mannon.

The Human Library experience also gives students the opportunity to see how  different career choices can impact lifestyles. It was designed to be a comfortable experience where students could feel free to ask any questions they want without embarrassment or judgment, Mannon said.

I was stationed at Table 19, and had three “readers” for the event – Alex, an aspiring journalist who wants to be a foreign war correspondent; Alexis, a budding novelist; and Emily, who wants to be a pharmacist.IMG_1899

As it turned out, the person Emily came to speak to was not available, so I did my best to “read” her and her interest in pharmacology, then channeled my inner guidance counselor and tapped my endless internal library of professions I’ve written about, which fortunately included a brush with a compound pharmacist.

I learned Emily also is considering a career in physical therapy, and was able to point her in the direction of my fellow human book, Rhoda Sommer of Anytime Fitness.

I found this event to be inspiring – in particular because it brings people together to talk about things that matter to them.  Face-to-face conversation is something that unfortunately has been eclipsed by the ease of computerized social networking.

I see this as a great way to build community – Human Libraries to help citizens get to know their elected officials or city workers; for students to get to know their classroom teachers in a different way; for neighbors to get to know neighbors, which helps us to understand that we all have a unique life story to tell, but underneath it all, we share the common bond of humanity – which is as comforting as it is life affirming.

Click here to read about the Human Library “books” who participated in the April 16 Goffstown High School event.

Paycheck Fairness Act and Thanking Mrs. Banks

Screen shot 2014-04-10 at 11.43.35 AMWe’ve come a long way, baby.

That’s not just an old slogan for Virginia Slims cigarettes, but a historical fact.

During a recent movie night viewing of “Mary Poppins”and the rousing opening number by a militant Mrs. Banks, I was moved to reconsider the word “suffrage” and whether it still defines women in some way.

Despite what the Online Etymology Dictionary tells us about the Old French/Medieval Latin roots of the word, it’s clear to me that suffrage is a mash up of two good old-fashioned words: suffering and rage.

Less than a century ago, our mothers’ mothers demanded  equality through the right to vote, aka suffrage. They were aptly called “suffragettes,” compelled to manifest the rage of their suffering through organized protests, civil disobedience, prison hunger strikes, marches and lectures on why women matter just as much as men, even in a man’s world.Screen shot 2014-04-10 at 6.58.16 PM

This, after polite requests for equality were brushed off by their “better halves” like summer flies from a picnic table spread.

Finally, in 1920,  the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed by Congress giving women the right to vote.

Since then, women have grappled with how to settle in to their roles as equal citizens and perpetuators of the human race, while fulfilling their personal, physical and intellectual leanings.

However, all these years later we still struggle to weigh in at no more or less than our male counterparts on the scale of human worth.  

Despite the Equal Pay Act of 1963, a working woman still earns  77 cents for every dollar earned by a working man.

Fast forward to the 21st Century, and hit pause when you get to President Obama’s remarks delivered on April 8, 2014, regarding the Paycheck Fairness Act, and equal pay for equal work:

“…when hardworking women don’t have the resources, that’s a problem. When businesses lose terrific women talent because they’re fed up with unfair policies, that’s bad for business. They lose out on the contributions that those women could be making. When any of our citizens can’t fulfill their potential for reasons that have nothing to do with their talent or their character or their work ethic, we’re not living up to our founding values.”

Say what you will about the politics of equal pay, but at the heart of it is our continued struggle to contribute to this life in a way that is authentic and fulfilling, without discrimination or unfair treatment based on our anatomical parts.

That we are still making strides toward equality nearly a century after being granted a voice  at the voting booth is equal parts heartening and disconcerting.Screen shot 2014-04-10 at 7.09.07 PM

The hope is that sooner than later  our value as equal human beings is not undercut by our gender. The goal is that our daughters’ daughters will look back at our efforts and marvel, not at how far we’ve come, but on how great it feels to have arrived.

Fighting Addiction: Content + Action = Community Engagement

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A simple February 14, 2014 Facebook post resulted in a community gathering. Behold the power of social media and engagement.

There is power in words. I know this from many years in the field as a journalist.

I also know that with a boost from social media, word power morphs and magnifies, and extends to places we can’t predict.

Today, allow me  to testify about how one person can make a difference simply by putting thought into words and words into action, through social media, powered by a strong sense that others want and need to connect to make the world a better place.

Here’s how it happened to me:

On February 14, 2014  I read an article on my hometown newspaper’s website about a community screening in Pennsylvania of a documentary about addiction, and hope in long-term recovery.

I immediately shared a link to the movie, “The Anonymous People,” on my Facebook page and wished someone would bring the movie to New Hampshire.

Wish granted.

One influential friend and 10 days later, a date was set for a public screening in New Hampshire.

On April 2, 2014 I was seated among 100+ movie-goers at the Dana Center on the Saint Anselm College campus for a free public screening of the movie, followed by a panel discussion.recovery1

Among those in attendance: Students, physicians, policy makers, professors, priests, community organizers, recovering addicts and alcoholics, family members with loved ones currently battling addiction and in desperate need of meaningful treatment options –which are few and far between in New Hampshire.

That was at the heart of bringing this movie to New Hampshire, the need for change.

There is a national drug addiction phenomenon  featuring  heroin and oxycodone currently driving a human  health crisis of epidemic proportions. This is not an exaggeration. From our state health officials here in New Hampshire to the U.S. Attorney General, the cost to society in human suffering, crime, law enforcement and incarceration, is exploding.

Missing from the equation: Effective resources focused on recovery from addiction. New Hampshire ranks 49th of the 50 states in recovery programs. The only place harder to find treatment is Texas, according to Cheryl Wilkie, Senior Vice President of the Farnum Center and Webster Place Recovery.

I guess even the drug problems are bigger in Texas.

Some take aways for me from “The Anonymous People:”

  • Public perception drives policy: Headlines about the daily horrors of addiction and celebrities stuck in or lost to addiction drive our sense of hopelessness.
  • “This is our black plague” – a quote from actress Kristen Johnston, a recovering addict who is one of the many celebrities telling their success stories. Screen shot 2014-04-03 at 9.38.03 AM
  • Lack of systemic support: Those in recovery from cancer are immersed in free post-treatment services “as part of their recovery.” Addicts get five days of detox or 28 days in a rehab bed, if they are among the lucky ones who have insurance or have good timing. After that, they are on their own.
  • 12-Step recovery peer-based programs work: Because they offer immediate support with a proven track record – there are some 23 million people currently living in long-term recovery through participation in Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous programs.
  • War on Drugs: A reversal of progress: There was a dedicated push toward recovery during the 1960s and ’70s, “Operation Understanding,” championed by high-profile politicians and actors in recovery, to raise awareness and remove stigma. That momentum was buried  under the weight of the orchestrated U.S. “War on Drugs,” chronicled here via “Frontline.”
  • Mental Health Parity Act of 2008 excludes addiction: We continue to view addiction as a shame-based disease. U.S. insurance companies provide a fraction of resources for what is a paralyzing and pervasive human health crises in America.
  • Community is the backbone of recovery: For an addict, recovery is initiated in treatment centers. But they recover in our communities – provided there are resources available to support them in their sobriety.
  • Silence = Death: Borrowed from the early AIDS political advocacy movement and Act Up, actress Kristen Johnston cites “Silence = Death” as the best slogan to describe the urgency of addressing this public health crisis here and now.

So, What now?Screen shot 2014-04-02 at 10.58.16 PM

I went back to Facebook after the screening and created a community page: Empowering Addiction Recovery in NH. Please join.

It was my initial reaction to keep the momentum going and give people a place to discuss how to move forward, again harnessing the power of social media.

I have heard there were some in attendance interested in bringing a public screening of “The Anonymous People” to their city or town. Anyone can do that. Here is a link for more information at ManyFaces1Voice.org.

Contact your mayor, board of aldermen, town councilors, town administrators, public health officials, state reps, senators and congressmen. Demand that they address the need for treatment and recovery programs and funding. Ask how you can help.

Beyond that, you can reach out to the panelists and experts who supported the April 2 Saint Anselm event, and find out how you can join the conversation and make a difference here in New Hampshire.

Tym Rourke, NH Charitable Foundation (tr@nhcf.org)

Cheryl Wilkie, VP Farnum Center/Webster Place Recovery (cwilkie@eastersealsnh.org)

Lee O’Connor, Narcotics Anonymous Granite State area (loconnor621@gmail.com)

Jerry Hevern MD, family physician Suncook Family Health Center (ghevern@comcast.net)

Megan Shea, Family Willows Manger and Therapist (MShea@fitnh.org)

Eric Spofford, Founder, The Granite House Sober Living (ericspofford@granitehousesl.com)

View this VIDEO: Excerpt from “The Anonymous People” April 2 screening and panel discussion at Saint Anselm, via YouTube.recovery2

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Ink Link: Change Font, Save $400 Million

Screen shot 2014-03-30 at 11.11.56 AM I’m excited about the paper published by 14-year-old Suvir Mirchandani by the Journal of Emerging Investigators. He is a Pennsylvania high school student who concluded his science research project can help reduce the national deficit in a big way.

The takeaway from his paper, “A Simple Printing Solution to Aid Deficit Reduction,” is this:

“Dear United States: I can save you $400 million.”

For Suvir, it began with a study of how his school might save money on printing costs. Rather than the usual tree-hugging approach, by reducing paper use, Suvir analyzed the cost-savings for ink with a simple idea: change the font. He concluded that by switching to Garamond, a lighter thinner font, the school would save 24 percent on ink, or $21,000, which is like a small pot of gold for any school.

His teacher, recognizing the kid was on to something, suggested he publish his findings in the JEI, an open-access journal founded by a group of Harvard grads.

Suvir’s ink link project was published March 10, 2014 and, within two weeks, was making international news.

During a recent CNN interview, Suvir delivered a priceless and savvy talking point, that printer ink is twice as expensive as French perfume, a statement verified by CNN. Chanel No. 5 perfume costs $38 per ounce. Hewlett-Packard printer ink can cost up to $75 per ounce.

Ooh, la la.

Suvir also concluded that there would be  indirect environmental benefits – lower ink production and disposal volumes, and reduced paper use.

He extrapolated that if the federal government followed suit it could reduce the $1.8 billion 2014 printing budget by $136 million. If state governments switched fonts, the total annual savings to our U.S. government this year would be an additional estimated $234 million, depending on how wordy their printed documents.

A federal government spokesman, although non-committal about embracing change, called Suvir’s study “remarkable.”

I love this story for many reasons.

First, I love the power of education, and science projects gone viral.

Also, as one who has seen the newspaper industry shrink in part due to increasing production costs for ink and paper, I respect this young scientist’s approach to cost analysis.  Keep it simple. He’s not only done the math, he’s considered the vehicle by which our government communicates with we, the people.

It’s practical. It allows for the fact that while the Internet is used by about 75 percent of U.S. households, we still like to have something to hold on to (or file away, or send to our tax man, or frame for posterity).

Never mind that our country’s heavily-inked historical documents are in jeopardy of fading into oblivion due to the unintended side effects of time, wear, tear, temperature and light on old paper and organic ink.

As someone who has embraced the delivery of information via the Internet and virtual paper and ink, I am admittedly still a fan of the printed word.

It’s a necessary evil, and I have the paper piles to prove it.

Schools,  government entities, news and information outlets, and businesses will continue to print material.  Embracing the notion that there might be a better way and seeking simple solutions, like a simple font change, reminds me that change is good, especially when you are mindful of how you dot your “I” cross your “T” and count your pennies.

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Finding the Right Words

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” Mark Twain

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Communication is key. You’ve heard that countless times.  As human beings, we are compelled to communicate. It’s our urge to understand and be understood.

We do so through words, actions, photographs, facial expressions, gestures, even silence.

Communication is how we understand the world around us. Thanks to technology, we can now communicate instantaneously with anyone anywhere in real time. Don’t speak their language? No problem. There’s an app for that.

Whether for personal expression or a marketing campaign, finding the right words makes the difference between communication and effective communication.

For those of us who make our living by choosing and assembling words, there is no greater truth than the above quote by Mark Twain. Right words go beyond communicating a particular thought or idea; they can elevate, elicit change, generate action, create understanding, and stir emotion.

Words are a powerful communication tool when handled with expertise and care.

When writing anything – a greeting card message, a Facebook or blog post, a news story or marketing copy – I consider every word that seems to fit, and then I consider my options. For me, finding the right words is an adventure. For me, it’s the difference between capturing lightning bugs in a bottle and capturing lightning in a bottle, and understanding how the power to illuminate depends on your power source.

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Every Picture Helps Tell Your Story

I have learned as a multi-media journalist the importance of being able to tell a story across multiple platforms.  Words have power. Images have power. Together, they tell a depth of story that one or the other alone cannot. Below is a slideshow of some of the images I’ve photographed to accompany stories that range in scale from a personal victory or struggle, to the power of community engagement and triumph; a new business launch or a town’s moment of collective grief.

You can see more examples of my photographic work here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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Creating Content: It’s My Thing

paperboy“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” – Albert Einstein

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After years in the news trenches, I’m ready to launch Robidoux Ink Link, a solo venture into freelance content delivery.

I have been reading a lot about trends in digital content creation and starting up a solo business, and read with particular interest, “The Six Mistakes of New Ventures,” on Practical Decisions, an entrepreneurial think tank of sorts.

It gave me the following food for thought:

Mistake No. 1 is “Passion Without a Plan.” Passion is my strong suit. As for a plan, I’m excited to be working with New Hampshire’s innovative Pathway to Work program, which will help me develop a business plan and get things up and running. I am also in the good hands of Lee Hecht Harrison in Manchester, a parting gift from Patch.com, which has provided me with invaluable resources.

Mistake No 2 is “Selling Too Cheaply.” Hey, tell me about it. As a longtime journalist in a shrinking industry for which no news entity seems interested in paying a living wage to highly trained professionals, I know well the hazard of working for peanuts. My sales pitch as a freelance digital content creator underscores my experience and effective way with words. I like to say I’m “worth my weight in gold” (although these days I might do better to say I’m worth my weight in bitcoin.) And I’m counting on my prospective clients to agree.

Mistake No. 3 is “Ineffective Marketing and Advertising.” If nobody knows who you are or what you can do, how will they find you? So, you will begin to see me popping up everywhere, from Facebook and Twitter to public events, and business mixers. I’d love to talk to your group or organization about what it means to be a 21st century media maven. Please share my links, give me feedback, reTweet me often. If you’ve been on the receiving end of my services or storytelling, I’d appreciate an endorsement to include here on my website. You can email me at robidouxink@gmail.com.

Mistake #4 is “Underestimating Capital,” and gets into knowing how you will sustain yourself until you break even, while maintaining a creative financing plan. As a longtime human being, I feel sustaining myself in creative financial ways is the sole reason why I’m still standing. Fortunately for me, in this particular venture, I don’t need a storefront. There’s no inventory I need to invest in upfront. It’s just me, doing what I do, from the inside out.

Mistake No. 5 is “Lack of Management Oversight.” You can take this to the bank: I plan to be the best boss I’ve ever had (no offense intended to all my previous bosses, who were all wonderful, by the way).

Mistake #6 is “Lack of Specific Skills:” They saved the best for last, in my estimation. Because Robidoux Ink Link will finally give me the chance to fluff my feathers and spread my wings as a skilled journalist, storyteller, content creator and professional writer. And fortunately for me, I am also an enthusiastic networker, diligent Tweeter and Facebook fiend, I love meeting new people, and pitching ideas.

Of course, there is one more important point: We all make mistakes, at least six of them in a life time. Especially writers and journalists and editors, who know that this is a daily hazard of the human condition. We’ve got the “next-day correction” archives to prove it. I firmly believe that if you’re out there not making mistakes, it’s because you’re not doing anything.

Today, I am ready to fly.

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When God and the Big Bunny collide

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It’s Easter Sunday, the perfect time to forget what you think you know – if truth is worth seeking at all.

And as a natural-born truth-seeker, here’s my contribution to the greater good.

It began with a casual conversation I overheard at work that went something like this:

“When is Lent officially over? Does it end with Easter or Good Friday?”

“All I know is I gave up swearing three weeks ago.”

“I think it ends on Holy Thursday. Either Holy Thursday or Good Friday.”

“Well I don’t get it … if Jesus wandered in the wilderness for 40 days and Lent began on Ash Wednesday, which was March 8, and Easter is on April 23rd, that’s … 46 days. That doesn’t make sense!”

I think it actually beings on the eighth Monday before Easter, Clean Monday, and skips weekends.”

“Actually Lent recalls the 40 days Jesus spent praying in the wilderness before he was crucified, a time when Christians sacrifice something they love, just as God did. But the early church decided not to count Sundays because Sunday was a work day for priests.”

“All I’m saying is it doesn’t make sense to me.”

I’m not exactly sure how the discussion ended, or why it began. Clearly it’s hard to untangle 2,000 years of confusion, even with a brainstorming session among journalists.

But for the record, here’s what I do know.

So please accept, with apologies to all my former Sunday school teachers, the following essay. I call it:

“Why I Gave Up Buying Easter Shoes for Lent.”

First, a Reader’s Digest version of the historical roots of Easter: It’s really a hybrid of pagan goddess worship, early Christian and Hebrew customs and the amorous nature of rabbits.

Hebrews celebrate Passover each year beginning on the 15th night of the Jewish month of Nissan, this year, April 19. “Passover” comes from the Hebrew word “Pesach,” a verb meaning “he passed over.”

"And there was a Great Cry in Egypt" by Arthur Hacker
“And there was a Great Cry in Egypt” by Arthur Hacker

This custom goes back to the Old Testament book of Exodus when Moses, inspired by God, freed the Israelite from slavery. As the story goes, the “angel of death” passed over homes marked with the blood of a sacrificial lamb and claimed the lives of the first-born son of all the other households, including Pharaoh’s son. This finally convince Pharaoh to free the Israelites.

Historians say the Christians continued to observe Passover, recognizing the symbolism of the crucified Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb of God, whose blood was shed to save their souls form eternal suffering. They saw this as fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies of a messiah, or Savior, and based on their beliefs on the resurrected Lord.

Eostre, goddess of fertility.
Eostre, goddess of fertility.

Others, known as pagans, celebrated the annual arrive of Eostre, the goddess of fertility. Festivities in her honor began around the Vernal Equinox (March 21) coinciding with the burgeoning of plants, flowers, new life and more bunnies than even Hugh Hefner could account for.

Around 325 A.D. the Nicene Council ruled that the annual celebration of their Savior should be celebrated in conjunction with the pagan rites of Eostre, to bring more pagans into the Christian fold.

Over time, other icons of new life, such as eggs, and bunnies, were included (which have joyfully evolved into chocolate-covered versions widely distributed in advance of Easter.)

The next 1,675 years involved too much religious turmoil to relay. Of note, however, would be the Pilgrims, who brought Christianity to the New World from Europe.

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 11.42.29 AMAnyway, I gave up buying Easter shoes a few years ago, around the time God and the Big Bunny collided in my world.

My inquisitive preschooler wanted to know what the Easter Bunny had to do with God and church and why Tommy and his fellow Rugrats celebrated Passover.

I had no idea where to begin.

And so began a personal journey to the roots of my own faith.

I was raised to be a nice Protestant girl in the U.S. I learned to enjoy holidays, customs and new shoes on Easter as much as the next gal.

But I’ve also learned that when worlds collide, you need to kick off your shoes and sort things out for yourself.

Today, I find myself inspired by the God of Moses and the miraculous New Testament accounts of Christ.

I will forever be humbled by my humanity.

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 11.49.25 AMEaster here in the U.S. is broadly enjoyed as a candy-eating holiday underwritten by a magical rabbit with pagan relatives nobody talks about in polite conversation over Easter dinner. And yes, it’s also enjoyed by devout church-goers, the very same who also like to “keep the Christ in Christmas” (even though, for the record, that holiday was also co-opted from the pagans).

That’s a story for another day.

Generally speaking, the mash-up of fun holiday rituals and religious rites are simply that. The true meaning of Easter belongs to those who celebrate it in whatever way the choose to in a free country like ours.

As for me, in the end, I hope I’ll be defined by what I chose to embrace in life rather than by what I might have lived without for a few weeks each year.


Originally published April 23, 2000