People 15 April 2017
America’s infrastructure and culture are changing. Once relegated to segregation and isolation, women are breaking barriers, and walls, and in the cracks, green is sprouting up.
As the owner of a Landscape Architecture Firm specializing in creating public spaces for cities, you can find my team and me engaging in a wide variety of activities - from designing plans to engaging in public meetings, visiting project sites or nurseries, or a myriad of other activities. There are a wide array of components necessary to the process of beautifying our cities, but which are crucial in the role of implementing public spaces that can be enjoyed during work or play and which contribute to America’s rapidly evolving communities.
Women today are living in a challenging social climate, with the very idea of basic morality being tugged along a partisan divide. When we’re having public debates about just who women should be allowed to have lunch with, there’s a problem. And while I would never pretend to have the solution to our societal dilemma, I can’t help but look to our cities to seek a better understanding.
I have always loved gardens, and have dreamt of their designs my whole life. A passion that’s been instilled in me since I was a little girl, my entire life has been influenced by the natural world of my surroundings. There are some who would view gardening as a “feminine” pastime, but no one would disagree more than my father. A thorough bred Englishman, the comforts of the garden were among my dad’s only consistencies as a young boy. While the Nazis pummeled London, my dad was evacuated along with thousands of other children to safer parts of the UK. He spent his early years shifting between England and Ireland, never sure of what the next day was going to bring. This state of constant change taught my dad to be patient and ready for anything – qualities that lent themselves well to a long life of gardening.
Eventually, his love of gardening brought him to America and to my mother. If he was the example of the quintessential Englishman, my mother was the quintessential American. Able to trace her American roots all the way back to the Revolution, and proud of her heritage – they were a mix of Old World and New.
Together, they instilled in my sisters and me, a sense of pride and independence. I did not grow up defined by my gender and felt no limitations as a woman, yet, as my career picked up, I found that some men did. Whether a doctor, lawyer, scientist, or any other “untraditional” role, women everywhere have the same story. Mine happened in the field. Dressed in steel-toed boots and a hard hat, I was overseeing the installation of a rain water system. My team of workers were all men, and as manly as they professed to be, they did not know how to properly install the equipment. It was up to me to get in the dirt and guide them through the installation, but they looked at me – this little woman, with faces clearly registering doubt. When I explained that the rain water system had a filter over it, which was knotted at the end like socks from the laundry, one of them quipped that his wife did the laundry. With humor and deflection, I quipped right back, got the crew laughing and to drop their defenses, they learned how to properly install the system and throughout the rest of the project to see me as a leader, no different from them.
I’ve led many design/build projects, and found this to happen many times since. I admire my male colleagues, and count many as my closest friends, but without a doubt I have faced doubt or discrimination and have had to integrate that into my daily dealings.
But, what do my experiences say about America, and how does my role at the helm of a design firm affect how women are viewed professionally? Sexism is, in many ways, rooted into the ways cities are built. Think of the classic images of a business-driven city – men in suits rushing to and fro, from sun blocking skyscrapers lining city streets. After a day’s grind, they return home to doting wives and respectful children and sit down to dinner for a home cooked meal. When America returned from WWII as the leader of the free world, this was the ideal, the American dream – and its cities matched that vision. Impressive skyscrapers challenged the clouds and hard concrete lined the streets. Business was purely business in this masculine rush for American dominance, and there was no need for anything else.
However, society has evolved, and proof of that is built into the framework of modern cities. It is through the creation of a space that makes one feel connected to their community. It is when designers thoughtfully incorporate a level of detail that facilitates connectivity, social engagement and comfort, that the design becomes invaluable to the framework that draws people to that space, and makes them want to use it.
As a contributor to city design and beautification, this evolution is nowhere more apparent than in the design of our cities and communities. Because many of the projects I work with are publicly funded, I feel that my work represents the desires of everyday Americans, and how they see the future, no matter where their political ballots lie. As we become a more open and diverse society, we’re melding our personal lives with our business. Developers are adding room for parks, where meetings can be held in the sunshine. Offices have common areas that promote friendship and connectivity. Public transportation stops are lined with trees, flowers, and walking/biking paths that support our health. Gone is the “nostalgic” stereotype of a man at work.
We’re already living in a time where “lunch” and “business” are not separate activities, but hand-in-hand with our daily duties. Americans – male and female – have moved past the idea that business is an entity disconnected from the rest of our lives.
As a woman, I’m proud to contribute to this evolving nature of American life and American professionalism. While the debate rages on about women’s role in society, let those who cling to the past look to America’s cities to see that change is built into the very framework of our communities, and that it won’t stop. When men of a certain mindset head to the office every morning, let them know that women like me are cultivating the public spaces that form their environment.
3 Min Read
With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.
When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.
Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan
Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.
Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.
The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.
Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits
The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.
With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.
Tip 3: Start slow and strong
If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.
Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.
Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize
In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.
When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.
Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness
From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.
Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.
Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.
A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.
Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition
In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.
If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health
While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.
For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.
While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.