Floods, Coping, and Hope

My heart is heavy as I’ve been watching the news coverage in Baton Rouge—the flooding, the destruction, the loss. In many ways, these events remind me of Katrina (11 years ago today), and less so of Gustav, the two storms that bookended my time in Baton Rouge. My FaceBook feed has blown up with images of the damage, but also with stories of hope, of people working together to help one another, of friends banding together to salvage what they can of what remains and make another start.

It is reflective of the way my year has proceeded, too, with hope mingled with painful tragedies. Sometime I think that I have fueled my entire year on anger, using it to propel me forward each day, but that’s no way to live. I see my precious munchkins growing so fast, and I don’t want them to only remember that Mommy coped by yelling, but rather that she channeled her worries and her fears into creative outlets whenever and however she could.

So I try again another day, trying to get through it a little happier and a little more hopeful, even though there remain grim realities that I can’t escape the passage of time, that loved ones will pass, and that we will have to find a way to go on.

I’ve been hard at work at a number of small projects, including a trilogy of short stories that are half-done, the start of a mailing list, and the development of the Teacup Publishing site.

If you’d like to join my mailing list and possibly opt in to be a beta reader, you can do so here.

Meanwhile, I’ve been learning to draw, listening to writing and publishing podcasts, and expanding my horizons to different types of markets, including children’s books. There have been supportive author FaceBook groups and blogs, where I’ve made new friends and honed my craft. It’s one of these new friends that is promoting her new book. And she has a character named Preeti in her other book, so both are now on my e-reader bookshelf awaiting my finishing the (amazing) series I can’t yet put down. While I haven’t read her work, it’s a mere matter of time. Another new author friend just got picked up by a publisher, and I’m going to work through his books next in hopes of leaving some good reviews to spread the word. Stay tuned to hear more about them.

Salutations for Women: Miss, Ms., or Mrs.?

In the spirit of Word Wednesday, let’s look at the correct way to address women in professional correspondence. The following is a message I sent to my alma mater in response to a card I received for my annual donation:

Dear [redacted]:

It was a pleasure to receive the goody bag from UT for my donation, but I was a little troubled to be addressed as “Mrs.” Sharma. Considering that my professional relationship with UT predates my marriage and that my employment–not my husband’s–provides me the resources to make an annual donation to my alma mater, I found this reference to my marital status unwelcome and unnecessary.

While I speak for myself alone and not for any other women Longhorn donors, it is a sad fact of our society that as a woman working in a STEM career in a male-dominated environment, I have had to work to overcome a perceived lack of industry knowledge and other gender stereotypes in order to be taken seriously and to earn the respect due to a subject matter expert by my colleagues both past and present. This work is mine alone, and being addressed as nothing more than my husband’s wife by the same university that provided the education that has enabled these successes truly saddens me.

In future correspondence, I strongly urge you to use the general salutation “Ms.” to avoid misunderstandings, especially in correspondence of a professional nature. “Ms.” places women on equal footing as men, who are universally recognized as “Mr.” regardless of their marital status.

With sincere regards,

Hook’em Horns!

Preeti Sharma

Now, it may seem that I’m being excessively hard on someone who, after all, was sending me a thank you note. But when I read the note, I was genuinely upset!

I intensely disagree with any use of “Mrs.” outside of social correspondence, like wedding invitations addressed to my husband and me. How is it any of the university’s business whether I’m married or not when I’m conducting a financial transaction with them? I did not have to get my husband to write the check, as I might have had to in bygone eras, nor did I need his permission to spend the money as I saw fit beyond the joint and equal discussions we have about our budget.

Use of “Ms.” is always appropriate. It was in fact devised to eliminate the confusion of addressing women of unknown marital status. So let’s use it.

Have you ever been addressed incorrectly in correspondence? How do you respond?