Strengthening Community Relationships in Hard Times

Community relationships pose challenges at even the best of times. I was excited to read recently that California Governor Jerry Brown has declared California’s drought state over for now. Within days of reading that article, I read that Central Florida’s wildfires are being exacerbated by dry conditions. While Florida’s situation is different from California’s, it still occurred to me that the “for now” part of California’s governor’s declaration is something we should all remember. Crises can occur at any time, and as we learned in Tallahassee last year during Hurricane Hermine, community relationships do better in crisis with a plan.

I am re-sharing a post I wrote in 2015, inspired by my horror at the #DroughtShaming I learned about among California neighbors. It’s an important reminder that community relationships are fragile and it is in our ability to nurture them.

Community Relationships

PR Lessons from DroughtShaming

I have a confession to make.

I used to be an anonymous “PoorlyProofed” contributor on Twitter.

Eventually, I started feeling guilty for anonymously calling people out.

I hate typos as much as the next person, but I started to feel that the negativity behind my tweets was weighing me down.

(It doesn’t stop at PoorlyProofed, admittedly. I even blogged about someone who misspelled “angel” on a luminaria MEMORIALIZING THEIR LOVED ONE WHO DIED OF CANCER.)

But it’s a new day, a new year, and perhaps I have evolved.

I have evolved to the point that I have reached a critical mass in my tolerance for anonymous finger-pointing on Twitter.

DroughtShaming

When I was listening to a recent radio story about DroughtShaming, I couldn’t help but feel that this effort was not going to end well.

The drought conditions in California, and the civic actions that have been taken to try to mitigate the effects of the drought, have resulted in the birth of the DroughtShaming hashtag (#droughtshaming).

There’s even an app.

The citizen reporter stands at the offending area, and GPS knows where they are, so the report already includes the address along with the alleged infraction.

Most people will agree that measures need to be taken to deal with the drought conditions in California.

When I see the glee with which some people use DroughtShaming, though, I have to wonder if their motives are altruistic.

I mean, what are the homeowners’ association meetings going to be like for these neighbors in the future?

Distrust Does Not Build Community Relationships

My husband and I were on the receiving end of a summons three years ago for “high grass.”

We deserved the summons. I won’t argue that. 

Our lawnmower had broken, my husband was out of a job, and we did not have the money to fix the lawnmower.

Because the report was made anonymously, there was no way of knowing who had filed it.

I kept wishing whoever had filed the report had offered to let us use their lawnmower instead.

It wasn’t that we WANTED our yard to be an eyesore.

Admittedly, my feelings probably would have been hurt if I had been approached directly by a neighbor, even if they were offering a lawnmower, but after the summons incident, I have always been asking myself  “was it YOU?” when interacting with my neighbors.

Distrust among neighbors does not build a caring community.

Positively Solve Problems

As communicators, we can play a role in more positively solving problems such as the drought-measure compliance.

  1. Connecting: One of the first pieces of strategy has to be to foster a “we’re all in this together” vibe. California is not going to be in drought conditions forever. The day will come when it will not be news that someone is watering their lawn. We need to help people realize a mutual goal of creating a pleasant community is bigger than the issue of sprinklers.
  2. Acknowledge the Issue: I don’t mean to flit around rejoicing that drought is front and center as a problem. Some events are inevitable in the life of a community. If it wasn’t drought, maybe it would be a proliferation of invasive plants, too much rain, or a strike by municipal workers such as the waste management staff. Be clear that drought is a true issue. Don’t gloss over it.
  3. Encouraging Constructive Action: Getting your neighbors fined or using civic resources to write up tickets has little probability of bringing rain down from the sky or of preserving what little water you do have. As a community, you may be at half time of your water management game, but you can still win if you have the right plays.

How can we, as communicators, help keep the civility reservoir full rather than drain it dry?

This blog post was originally published at Spin Sucks as PR Lessons from DroughtShaming.

Help #ProjectReadathon Generate Children’s Books!

I have been a Charity Miles ambassador for many years now, and it is astounding to see how the app and its impact on deserving causes have both evolved (big props to creator Gene Gurkoff for that). I am excited that Charity Miles is partnering with Penguin Random House to conduct a campaign around children’s books.

Charity Miles Expands Beyond Feet on Pavement (Or Pedals)

As a proponent of Charity Miles, one of my goals over the years has been to encourage people to use the app, to dispel misunderstandings, and in general to talk it up in order to help as many causes as possible.

For example, you don’t have to be a “serious athlete” doing “serious mileage” to make a difference. Walking from your parking spot into the grocery store, for example, can help. Anything over a tenth of a mile counts toward benefiting a favorite charity.

I know, I know — everything I have said so far involves physical exertion.

Now, however, Charity Miles has added READING to the ways you can help a cause.

READING, people! And you know how I feel about that!

Helping Save the Children Earn Children’s Books Through the Charity Miles Readathon

Though April 23, Charity Miles is partnering with Penguin Random House for  the #ProjectReadathon campaign. During the campaign, Charity Miles members will be invited to contribute minutes to the Million Minutes goal by visiting the Charity Miles Impact Hub!

Side note: Even as a veteran Charity Miles user, it took me a little searching to find the Impact Hub. Here’s a screen shot of what it looks like (assuming you have installed the Charity Miles app). Just follow the red arrow.

Children's Books

Today, for example, I read “Hardwiring Happiness” which generated a 3-book donation.

Children's Books

Reading inside the Impact Hub triggers book donations from Penguin Random House to kids in need in the US, Canada, and Mexico through Save the Children. The more you read, the bigger impact you have: read a 20-minute excerpt and you could unlock a 5-book donation, or read an hour and unlock 20. The excerpts expire in 24 hours so keep up your reading streak and read every day.

But Moving Is Always Good Too!

You can also unlock books by walking, running, or cycling and logging Charity Miles. Charity Miles has set a goal to log 10,000 Charity Miles for Save the Children. Each mile will translate to one minute read, for every 20 mins a book will be donated. Reaching the goals means moving 2,500 books to children in North America!

Why This Lights My Fire

So many of us have books peeking out of multiple little corners of our homes. Stacks of books our children discarded long ago. Books we grabbed on impulse at the bookstore and haven’t gotten to. Books we read, loved, and just can’t part with.

For many kids, that is not the case. Let this infographic from Reading is Fundamental sink in:

Children's Books

RIF says it well:

A productive, contributing nation is dependent on a literate society.  Every child deserves an opportunity to own books, learn how to read, and obtain the fundamental building blocks to achieve their highest potential.

 

I applaud Penguin Random House for helping kids become readers and, therefore, lifelong learners via #ProjectReadathon.

Getting Started Personally

Since starting yesterday, I have read two excerpts, resulting in donations of six books, and walked 0.28 miles. That part was a pretty tiny start, but hey, that means there are only 9,999.72 more to go? 

Children's Books

I would love your help in getting there. More importantly, so would kids in need of children’s books.

Children's Books

 

An Easter Adventure

It is Easter today, and I am not in the mental mindset to write either something sentimental or something candy-related. I feel like changing things up a little bit, and doing it in advance of Easter so I can enjoy the day Sunday.

I abandoned “Write a story about a serial killer who leaves his (or her) clues in Easter eggs” (I don’t want to get that twisted.)

I considered:

Write a story where one of the main characters is a professional artist who made him/herself famous by designing Easter eggs.

Write a story that begins with a modern-day pastor being time warped to the time when Jesus was resurrected.

(The above two ideas were from Litbridge.)

My hilarious friends had lots of suggestions, reminding me that “little bunny foo foo was a serial killer” (technically true!) and somehow devolving into twerking bunnies.

In the clearer light of day, let’s consider what our crazy cat, Bella, actually does when she escapes.

An Easter Adventure

For context, Bella is (ahem) an indoor cat. She has developed a codependency, however, with my father-in-law, who goes in and out of our French doors many (many!) times a day to smoke his cigars. I’ve tried lots of methods of trying to keep her in, but sometimes it just doesn’t work. There are birds to chase and there’s grass to smell, after all!

<<<cue mysterious ghostly suspenseful music here>>>

One day, Bella escaped as she had done so many times before.

“She’ll come back,” my husband and I said to each other, something we have said hundreds of times before which had always proven true. After all, the lure of her food bowl eventually wins.

The night before Easter, we were exhausted. I had gotten up early to volunteer at the water stop for the Palace Saloon Race. Wayne, as usual, was snoring away. My father-in-was in whatever land a combination of Percocet and Ativan gets you to, and my son was still out with his girlfriend.

To keep trying to lure Bella in or go to bed?

The bed won.

When I woke up Easter morning, the first order of business was (as usual), pressing “brew” on the Keurig. When the house’s quiet registered, I realized Alice Cooper, our other cat, was the only feline begging me for food.

WHERE WAS BELLA?

I was kicking myself for all those times I thought “I really should make her wear a collar with a tag that has identification on it.” Was she gone for good?

It is hard for me to relax about Bella. As my husband reminds me often, I am the family member who gets most stressed about her disappearances. It’s a long story but the bottom line is: she is my daughter’s cat, she brings us all happiness (when she isn’t destroying the furniture), and I don’t want her to disappear on my watch.

As the coffee finished brewing and the caffeine started infiltrating my system, I got distracted by my usual morning routine of checking email and social media.

Happy Easter! Wished so many friends on social media.

Easter wishes on a screen weren’t quite cutting it. I missed all the years when I was growing up when my parents would have my place at the table set with an elaborate Easter basket I could admire before getting dressed for church. I missed all the excited years of my children’s Easters: candy, dressing up, the famous bonnet contest at church.

This year, all I had to look forward to was giving some chocolate and cards to my husband and son (I had sent Tenley her Easter goodies in advance), and the inevitable first question of the day from my father-in-law: “anyone got a pain pill?”

Since no one else was up yet, I headed outside to get the newspaper.

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted lavender. WEIRD. Upon further inspection, in the hedges by the mailbox was a plastic easter egg. HMMM. Maybe the Tallahassee Democrat had found the one way to reach out to me that didn’t involve me having to hunt for a password I couldn’t remember. I tucked the egg in my pocket and brought the paper into my house.

Still feeling a little out of sorts, I decided to treat myself to an everything bagel. I grabbed one out of the freezer, wrapped it in a paper towel, and opened the microwave to defrost the bagel.

HMMM. The microwave was NOT. EMPTY. Two mint green eggs stared back at me. Maybe my son had developed a penchant for holiday observances (hey, 17 isn’t too late to learn!) and spread treats throughout the house for me. I placed the mint green eggs with the lavender egg in a bowl.

Wishing I had bought orange juice to have with my everything bagel, I resigned myself to an oj-free breakfast and opened the refrigerator door to grab butter.

NOW THIS IS GETTING STRANGE, I thought.  A pint of pulp-free orange juice had hopped into my fridge. There was no way it had been there the day before.

As I got dressed for church, my mind was tossing around the possible origins of the eggs and the orange juice. I didn’t dare mention it to my husband – it sounded so bizarre.

I stopped by my laptop to take a peek at my social media before we left for church. Where the heck did *this* screen saver come from?

Easter Adventure

And the rainbow of Peeps (my favorite) and chocolate bunny so beautifully packaged (packaging matters) in my chair?

*meow* came a feline voice from the porch.

Easter Adventure

It turns out Bella’s latest adventure had been more about bunnies than birds.

And an Easter “Cat”astrophe was not a catastrophe at all.

Someone got a bowl *brimming* with food after her big adventure.

Empowering Women: It Takes a Tribe

There is a mountain in Mexico I want to climb. I don’t mean in a “carabiners and ropes” kind of way, but in a “take a vehicle as far as you can and then walk the rest of the way” kind of sense. The goal? To help my friend Felisa Hilbert, one of my favorite examples of women empowering women, with the clinic she has established in a remote Mexican community that has no running water.

Felisa is a fellow Shot at Life champion. Although as Shot at Life champions, she and I have attended multiple conferences and trainings about helping children around the world have access to life-saving vaccines to prevent diseases like measles, pneumonia, polio, and infections that cause diarrhea, she has taken the next step: actually built a clinic from the ground up to help children in Tetzilquila, Veracruz, Mexico.

Empowering Women

The clinic is “up” a mountain but you have to walk “down” to get to it!

Empowering Women

Empowering Women Requires a Variety of Strengths

Felisa is the first person who came to mind when I learned of Heifer International’s new women’s empowerment initiative, which encourages us to think about four types of women in our lives: allies, entrepreneurs, artists, and den mothers. Read about her dedication to her clinic in this article (highlight below):

Hilbert has taken that philosophy to a rural community in Tex Tiquila, Mexico, where she is working to build a medical clinic. The community, made up of 40 families who speak Nahuatl, a native Aztec language, in place of Spanish, is completely isolated and lacks basic services, she said.

Although most people know Heifer International for their animal gifting program, they also do critical, impactful work to support and empower women. They believe that women have limitless potential, but limited opportunity and equip and empower marginalized women with resources and training as a means to sustainable livelihoods and community leadership positions.

Identifying Our Tribes

Heifer International developed a fun quiz to help us figure out our own tribe personas. Not surprisingly, I found out I am an “ally.” For Felisa, I would say she straddles two of the categories, “entrepreneur” (seriously, building a clinic on a remote Mexican mountain is not for the faint of heart or timid) and artist (check out the jewelry she makes then sells to support the clinic at the Jewelry for a Purpose Facebook page (pix of a few example below)).

Empowering Women

I’m also lucky to have great “den mothers” in my life. These are the people who don’t get sucked down by details BUT always seem capable of making sure no one gets left out and ensure there are snacks, drinks, and whatever other provisions we need at any get-together!

Honoring Felisa

Felisa, thank you for being you. Thank you for tirelessly supporting others. You inspire me to be better and today I am paying it forward to other women via a Heifer International Women’s Empowerment donation in your honor! This donation will fund a Heifer Women’s Self-Help Group that will teach women to read and write (empowering them to take control), give them livestock and training to increase their sense of self-reliance, and enable women to jointly better their communities through group savings and activities. SO INCREDIBLE.

Empowering Women

Celebrating the Sustainable Development Goals, especially HEALTH, with Felisa at the Social Good Summit in 2015.

Other Ways to Help Women Through Heifer International

To learn more about Heifer’s women’s empowerment efforts, check out heifer.org/joinhertribe. I would love all of my women readers to share about an incredible woman today!

There are several ways to be involved. While donations do, of course, rock, here are some additional social media actions you can take via Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter between now and April 15 to be a part of this effort to amplify the #JoinHerTribe initiative and support women worldwide.

  • A photo of you + a woman who has inspired you (to grow your business, prioritize self-care, pursue creativity, help others, etc.)
  • A compilation graphic — 4 faces to fit the tribe roles of The Ally, The Den Mother, The Entrepreneur, and The Artist
  • A dedication to a mom or friend who has helped you through challenging parenting times
  • Public personalities you aren’t connected with personally but who inspire you to do great things (Oprah, Maya Angelou, etc.)
  • A video dedication to someone who inspired you to vlog

Who has made a difference by being part of your tribe? Give them a shout-out today!

Empowering Women

The Difference Only Planned Parenthood Can Make

***UPDATE — APRIL 14, 2017*** 

As referenced in this New York Times article, Trump Signs Law Taking Aim at Planned Parenthood Funding, President Trump “signed legislation on Thursday [April 13] aimed at cutting off federal funding to Planned Parenthood.”

***END OF UPDATE, NOT THE END OF MY ADVOCACY”***

Here is my original April 2, 2017 post:

I have received services from Planned Parenthood precisely once, but that one visit places me among the “one in five” women in America who have visited Planned Parenthood at least once. As I alluded to in this post when I disclosed my experience of being tested for HIV, I tended in my early 20s to be fanatically cautious. Just like my it was probably scientifically impossible for the activities I was engaging in to expose me to HIV, neither did I technically need the diaphragm I was fitted for at Planned Parenthood.

Fast forward to 2017. At 52, I am a member of a demographic that does technically need services such as testing and treatment for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Opponents of Planned Parenthood try to paint a picture of an organization which zealously lures women into having abortions (fact: abortions account for less than five percent of Planned Parenthood’s services). These opponents support the rollback of Title X program funding, which in turn allows states to withhold certain funds to women’s health clinics.

We all need to understand the difference Planned Parenthood actually makes.

Planned Parenthood Advocacy

Middle-Aged and Elderly People Need STD Testing and Treatment

According to the CDC, nearly 1 in 4 persons living with HIV/AIDS in the United States is 50 or older.

Our issues around STDs are not limited to HIV risk, however, and they incorporate our emotions as well as our bodies.

Medscape breaks down the psychosocial factors behind our new middle-aged realities:

  • Divorce rates are increasing; in addition, the rate of people who remain unmarried is rising.
  • Midlife “repartnering” is increasing
  • As we stay healthier longer, our potential for engagement in sexual activity increases.

Medscape also lists the possibility, even though the research base is more shallow, that middle-aged women place a higher priority on intimacy over sexual health, leaving them more open to risk. In addition, older people may associate sexual risk-taking with their adolescent years and may ignore facts and dangers that they face.

Planned Parenthood Advocacy

Planned Parenthood Is An Asset for Women’s Health

Although you can learn the basics of the high-quality, affordable health care Planned Parenthood provides to women, men, and young people here, let’s focus for a minute on our middle aged and aging people facing a new sexual behavior reality:

Every year, Planned Parenthood provides more than 4.2 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, including more than 650,000 HIV tests.

 

Why Planned Parenthood Needs Our Support

Fifty-four percent of Planned Parenthood health centers are in health professional shortage areas, rural or medically underserved areas. Planned Parenthood health centers provide primary and preventive health care to many who otherwise would have nowhere to turn for care.

In 2014, Planned Parenthood health centers saw 2.5 million patients and provided more than 4 million sexually transmitted tests and treatment, more than 360,000 breast exams, more than 270,000 Pap tests, and birth control for 2 million people. Of Planned Parenthood patients in 2014, 15 percent were Black and 23 percent were Latino.

Although current efforts to defund Planned Parenthood cite Community Health Centers (CHCs) as a viable alternative health care provider for contraceptive and sexual health education needs, CHCs, while doing their own critical work for the health of our fellow Americans, are not equipped to replace Planned Parenthood.

Stepping Back and Taking the Long View

Right now, in April 2017, the dialogue around the future of Planned Parenthood is bookended on one side by supporters who strongly believe there is empirical evidence that blocking patients from accessing care at Planned Parenthood comes at too high a cost.

On the other end, opponents believe sentiments like these expressed by Senator Ted Cruz and Dr. Alveda King: “millions of abortions make Planned Parenthood a business that the federal government does not need to be funding with our tax dollars.”

Without Planned Parenthood, women would be less healthy, especially women in medically underserved areas. Planned Parenthood makes a difference.

That difference is what Katharine Hepburn’s republican mother sought when she helped found the Connecticut Birth Control League in 1920.

That difference is what Republican Barry Goldwater’s wife, Peggy, sought when she helped organize Phoenix’s first family planning clinic in 1937.

That difference is ostensibly what Prescott Bush (George H.W.’s father and George W.’s/Jeb’s grandfather) sought when he served as treasurer of a nationwide Planned Parenthood campaign in 1947.

That difference is possibly what then-Congressman George H.W. Bush sought in a 1968 address to Congress in which he advocated for government support of family planning programs, referring to the “tragedy of unwanted children and of parents whose productivity is impaired by children they never desired.”

That difference is what President Nixon and then-Congressman George H.W. bush sought when they supported Title X upon its introduction (and subsequent passage) in 1970.

That difference is what republican Barry Goldwater intended when he supported upholding Roe vs. Wade in 1983.

“That Difference” Changed Lives

It’s one thing to cite surprising moments in history that demonstrate “that difference” made by Planned Parenthood. It’s yet another to know that, for countless individual, real life flesh and blood women, Planned Parenthood impacted their lives for the better:

People like Bethany, who said, “Their clinics enabled me to maintain my reproductive health, and control over my body at a time when I could never have afforded to have a child.”

People like the woman whose breast lump was diagnosed and treated by Planned Parenthood, who shared, “Thank-you, Planned Parenthood, for understanding that nothing is more important than your health, no matter what your socioeconomic status is.”

(The source for the above two quotes is this Huffington Post article.)

People like Cassandra, who wrote for Grounded Parents that Planned Parenthood’s early diagnosis and treatment of her Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) saved her life. She writes:

When I hear politicians talk about defunding Planned Parenthood what I hear is that they don’t understand the services that Planned Parenthood provides for both men and women. What I hear is that they don’t care if both men and women have access to low-cost reproductive health care.

How You Can Make “That Difference” For Yourself and Others

Please tell your legislator why “that difference” is so much broader than many opponents would have them believe. Call them (it’s easy!) and tell them not to defund care at Planned Parenthood Centers. There are several resources here.

Planned Parenthood Advocacy

Here are some more resources:

Birth Control Coverage Should Always Be Guaranteed

There’s a Long History of Republicans Supporting Planned Parenthood—Why Is No One Talking About It?

Why I’m a Christian Who (Still) Supports Planned Parenthood

$200 Target Gift Card #Giveaway

Target Giveaway

Two (count ’em) TWO students in college. That’s what I am going to have starting August 2017. Although arguably my son’s idea of equipping his abode for college is different (and *maybe* less detailed) than my daughter’s, still — college kids need things and Target is the ideal place.

Whether you have college kids or not, you know you need something from Target. Wouldn’t it be nice to have $200 to kickstart your shopping spree?

Enter this giveaway and that kickstart may be yours!

Prize: $200 Target Gift Card

Giveaway organized by: Oh My Gosh Beck!

Rules: Use the Rafflecopter form to enter daily. Giveaway ends 4/21 and is open worldwide. Winner will be notified via email.

Are you a blogger who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your blog? Click here to find out how you can join a totally awesome group of bloggers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Currently Happening In My Facebook World

I often laughingly tell people that Facebook highlights have become a steady stream of “isn’t my new grandchild beautiful?” (they always are) and “so sorry to announce that Fluffly has crossed the rainbow bridge” (always sad). We Facebook users are older and grayer than many other social media channels, and it frequently shows.

Prompted by Mama Kat, though, a look at six hot topics in my Facebook world proves there’s more to my Facebook family than birth announcements and goodbyes to beloved pets.

Our Embattled Health Care

While I recognize that the Affordable Care Act is flawed, I also firmly believe The American Health Care Act was in no way a suitable replacement.

Having worked for Florida Healthy Kids for almost 20 years, I became a diehard believer in the power of preventive care, in the potential that can be unlocked if someone thinks out of the box and people with the patience to slog through the mind-numbing details of crafting federal policy and budgets follow up.

This is one of the graphics I received via my fellow advocates at I Stand with Planned Parenthood yesterday and posted to my wall prior to the failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act:

Facebook Highlights

#StandWithPP is (quoting from them): “A group of social media influencers across platforms – from Twitter to YouTube to blogs – saying together #StandWithPP to ensure that women have access to health care services that range from cancer screenings to birth control.” To join, complete this form.

The Emergence of Female Political Candidates, Especially at the Local Level

When I pulled up the Emerge America site while looking for a stat to use about the number of women entering the political arena (especially local) in the wake of the presidential election, I wanted to act on every single action point of the #WhySheRuns effort to increase the number of women running for office (with the exception of running myself), such as sharing the graphic below immediately.

Facebook Highlights

My belief in the power of women to make a difference locally, at the state level, and nationally (as well as internationally) drove me to donate to my friend Nicolette’s campaign for a seat on the Orange County Commission.

While there are traditional still photos of Nicolette and her awesome family on her campaign Facebook page, this picture, to me, best represents what women can do these days to make a difference: talk to people. Explain how to be a part of government. Overcome fears, objections, inertia. Talk. To people.

Facebook Highlights

Nicolette hosts an advocacy training for the Lake Nona Democrats.

If Our Kids Become Our Parents

Alexandra Samuel posted this to Facebook the other day.

If you knew your kids were actually time travelers who will eventually go back in time and become your parents, how would that change your parenting?

Aaaaaaaaaand I freaked out. I have always said that I imagine I overcompensated in my parenting for the issues that I took to the therapist’s couch, and I imagine that overcompensation in itself will give my kids plenty of material for their own therapeutic relationships.

It’s probably unfair to my kids to delve too deeply into this. For starters, I suspect Tenley would create a much more orderly, clean, environment in which I as a daughter would wear  more monograms and less “wow! doesn’t this quirky piece from Goodwill make you feel unique?” items. With Wayne Kevin as a parent, no one would get all worked up about the thousand and one administrative details of life; we would be too glued to YouTube.

Why Neal’s Mom Should Pay $120 For Great Tennis Shoes

My Facebook friend Neil Kramer asked Facebook Nation for help convincing his mom to indulge in proper footwear:

Please tell my mother that she deserves $120 New Balance sneakers if they are good for her feet.

Sounds like Neil’s mom is has a vein of the same self-sacrificing, frugal constitution that my parents have. $120 is, sadly, run of the mill for proper walking shoes these days. Honestly, if I had $120 I would have shipped them to her the minute I saw the post. I suspect the issue isn’t having the $120 to spend but her aversion to spending it “gasp!” ON SHOES.

Just do it, Neil’s Mom. I am sure you deserve it. As I told Neil, go to RoadrunnerSports.Com, and get a special deal on day one of visiting the website ($25 off a $75 or more order) as well as the option of their 90-day return policy, where you can return shoes no matter how worn within 90 days if they don’t work out (for credit toward another pair of shoes). We have tested this feature out and they mean it!

Editor’s Note: Neil’s mom got shoes! She got Nikes instead of New Balance but all reports say she is pleased with her purchase. In other news, Neil has now gone down the podiatry rabbit hole and “plantar fasciitis” is in his vocabulary (as well as words like “pronation“). He may never be the same! 

Why Everything About Everything Bagels is Awesome

In addition to his plea for help convincing his mom to take care of her feet, Neil posted this (titled “remains of everything bagel”):

Facebook Highlights

Which brought out ALL the “everything bagel” lovers on Facebook (me included). In addition to the wonders of the everything bagel (they’re best eaten in one of the five boroughs, to be specific, but those of us not currently in NYC have to do the best we can), we discussed:

And guess what I had for breakfast today?

Disney

Since I wrote about Disney last Sunday, am still coming down from the high of spending a few days there last week, have lots of young friends doing the Disney College Program, and in general have many friends going to Disney right now (maybe spring break has something to do with it), there’s a lot of Disney on my Facebook feed and I’m okay with that!

Facebook Highlights

How about you? How is Facebook edifying (or annoying) you lately?

Facebook Highlights

6 Life Truths From Fast Passes

I’m honestly not sure how you “do” Disney parks these days without a smartphone. With your device in hand and the help of the MyDisneyExperience app, you can plan and coordinate your entire visit, especially the Fast Pass process.

With a Fast Pass, you get expedited access to attractions, character meet and greets, and shows. After my recent visit, a few thoughts on how using the Fast Pass system intersects with six general life truths.

Planning Ahead Pays

If you want to avoid lengthy lines on the “big” Disney attractions, a Fast Pass is a necessity. When we went to Hollywood Studios, Tenley got fast passes for Tower of Terror, the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and the Frozen Sing-Along Celebration in advance. Although I didn’t do the two thrill rides, it helped expedite our trip that Tenley and her friend could do them with a minimum of waiting. And we all enjoyed being able to walk right into the Frozen Sing-a-long without standing around in a line moving at a glacial pace.

If You Fail to Plan Ahead, You Have to Watch Everyone Else Who Did Move Faster

Disney has definitely mastered the art of making long lines look deceptively manageable from the outside looking in. Get in line for something with a 110 minute wait time, thinking “ah … that doesn’t look that bad,” and find yourself enviously watching the Fast Pass holders stream on by, on their way to their fast-tracked experiences.

Standing in Line Isn’t ALWAYS Bad

Although this directly contradicts the above, life is full of contradictions, no? We chose to stand in long lines for several attractions we did not have Fast Passes for, and we had some of the best experiences of the trip during those waits. We spent time talking to a fun family from Oklahoma, discussing the challenges of siblinghood, the pros and cons of uniforms for school kids, and lots of other fun topics. Time flew.

We also played Heads Up! (mostly the Broadway version) and discovered a) how generational some Broadway knowledge is and b) how much fun you can have waiting in line (thanks, technology!).

Sometimes Planning Ahead Doesn’t Make THAT Much Difference

While Tenley and her friend were on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, I chose to do The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. The Fast Pass available to me was 35 minutes away, and the regular wait time was 40 minutes. BUT … I chose to get a Fast Pass so I could squeeze in a little errand I wanted to do. Technically, though, having a Fast Pass only saved me five minutes.

Overplanning Can Result in Missing Out on Serendipitous Happenings

The Fast Pass process can lure you into thinking only the Fast Pass activities are worthwhile. I think much of the Disney Magic is generated by being open to the unexpected, the small-but-magical, the discoveries you can’t force. We ended up doing pictures with Mickey Pretzels at Hollywood Studios (after I oh-so-brilliantly observed “oh, the pretzels are Mickey shaped! (SIGH….)). The lighting at that spot was perfect. Any other angle of the sun and it wouldn’t have worked. We were there at the right time, no Fast Pass required.

Disney Philosophy

If only the magic could have taken care of my cowlick!

The Big Things Have Limits

Anyone remember paper tickets? How after a day at Disney your “E” tickets would be history while you would still have a fistful of the less valuable “A” tickets? The same principle still applies, just via an app. We still can’t (or shouldn’t) do ALL “big things” — discovering the hidden gems matters.

Disney Philosophy

Belle and Lumiere were enchanting, even without Fast Passes.

NOTE: There is plenty of fine print with Fast Passes, like who gets the earliest selection window (60 days for people with reservations to stay on Disney Property), how many you can get at a time (three), and more. Read up ahead of time to get the most out of your Fast Passes (I linked to the official Fast Pass site above but Undercover Tourist has great tips here too)!

Things I’ve Never Done

I was inspired to prepare this piece based on a post called “Confessions: Things I’ve Never Done” from Andrea of Living on Cloud Nine. We share so many “nevers” in common, for a portion of this post I kept her  “nevers” and added my commentary. I’ll throw a few more original-to-me ones on at the end.

Seen an episode of The Bachelor (Andrea’s)

Unlike Andrea, I have seen several episodes of The Bachelor but I have never been a die-hard. I have to admit Twitter during The Bachelor is really fun though! (Jennifer Weiner’s Bachelor tweets were especially hilarious before she broke up with the show (thanks, Donald Trump.)
Life Goals
And fun side note: my daughter’s name (Tenley) had a brief popularity spike when there was a contestant on the show named Tenley (Tenley Molzahn — check her out at Tenley’s Sweet & Free Life).
 
Had stitches (Andrea’s)
Can’t say I’ve never had stitches (hello, childbirth).
 
Had a broken bone (Andrea’s)
I hate to jinx things by leaving this “never” here but, no.
 
Been in a Semi Truck (Andrea’s)

Funny/quirky that this was on Andrea’s list but …. I haven’t either!

Gone swimming under water (Andrea’s)

Yes, I’ve been swimming underwater.

Been on a Jet Ski or Water Skis (Andrea’s)
No to the jet ski, yes to the water skis. I have vivid memories of the friends who taught me to ski — I failed many times before finally staying up, and remember so clearly the key to success: staying “down” in a seated position longer than expected — until we were making progress — and then standing up. Not standing up prematurely before the boat had sufficiently pulled me into position. Kind of a great metaphor for life too.

Eaten Brussels Sprouts, Caviar, Eggs Benedict, Oysters, SpaghettiOs or a Big Mac (Andrea’s)

I need to cook Andrea some brussels sprouts (a fave!). I can check all of these off my list.

Joined Facebook or Instagram (Andrea’s)

(From Paula) I am never going to be able to escape Cal Newport (I wrote about his positive impact on my thoughts about attention span here and here, and my disagreement with his anti-social media stance here.) He impacted one of Andrea’s “never” answers (see below).

(Andrea’s original answer) I simply cannot do all Social Media and work and have a blog and raise a family. A couple outlets have to get sacrificed. Now while I admit I am probably missing out a little not having an insta, and you’re probably all gonna tell me that, lol, not having a FB is 110% fine by me. I read an article why one guy [Cal Newport] refused to join HERE and even had others try to argue why he should HERE and his stance remained the same. 
Been inside a Costco (Andrea’s)

Me either! How is that?!

Been on a Cruise (Andrea’s)

Nor have I . Andrea says it’s not for her at all, but I would love to go on a cruise.

Been to a Circus (Andrea’s)

Yes! I’ve been to the circus! While I’m glad so many measures have been taken to protect mistreated animals, I’m still a circus fan, especially the Florida State University Flying High Circus.

Taken My Kids to Disney World (Andrea’s)

It wasn’t a BIG part of my children’s childhoods but yes, they’ve been. Tenley loved it so much she went to work there (for a few months as part of the Disney College Program). This picture is from our visit to her while she was in the program.

Life Goals
Gotten a Tattoo (Andrea’s)
I haven’t done this either, and in most respects it isn’t my thing. However, I do love the idea of a semicolon (to reflect suicide awareness as inspired by Project Semicolon). If you are here in Tallahassee, come to No Regrets Tattoos on 4/9/17 from 12-7 p.m., and either get a semicolon tattoo or draw one on yourself with Sharpie. No Regrets is donating 50% of the proceeds for all semicolon tattoos to NAMI Tallahassee, which provides support, advocacy, education, and research for people with mental illness, their families and friends.

Life Goals

Plucked My Eyebrows (Andrea’s)
Yes, I’ve done this, although I get them waxed now instead of plucking. If you read this post, you know the waxing process doesn’t always go smoothly!

Worn False Eyelashes (Andrea’s)

Nope. I haven’t either and don’t foresee a time when I will.

Now that I’ve worked through Andrea’s list, here are a few of my own:

Won a Grads Made Good Award

I have always admired the winners of the Omicron Delta Kappa Grads Made Good award at FSU, such as author Diane Roberts, retired astronaut Winston Scott, and Sister Michelle Carroll. It feels funny writing this because I could frame it as “I’m only 52 — that  may be midlife but by golly I’m going to go out and write that book, create that world-changing social media campaign, or achieve that transcendent feat that earns me a nomination” but I just don’t see it happening (I probably also have dug my political grave in a few ways with the kind of people who make the Grads Made Good decisions, even if I solved World Hunger tomorrow.)

I remind myself that there are accomplishments in life for which there isn’t a cool batik award (I don’t know if they still do, but winners used to be given a hand painted batik likeness of themselves) and public notoriety, like raising two children and caregiving an elder through severe memory loss and terminal cancer. That matters too.
I particularly remember the 1996 Grads Made Good ceremony, when Wayne and I got a babysitter for a months-old Tenley and attended the breakfast. One of the honorees was Cliff Freeman, who created the Little Caesars “Pizza Pizza” campaign. Judging by this 2009 article about Mr. Freeman’s agency’s difficulty navigating a changed advertising landscape, success can be fleeting; perhaps I should be inspired to keep trying yet reassure myself that no award guarantees continued accolades.

 

Gone to Europe
I checked “international travel” off when I went to Guatemala in 2011 with Tenley. However, my dream international trip is to Valencia, Spain. That’s more likely to happen than winning a Grads Made Good Award.
Driven a Manual Transmission Car
While it isn’t technically true that I haven’t driven a manual transmission car, I surely have not mastered the skill. I did drive to Publix once, with Wayne talking me through it from the passenger seat, but I stalled out once and definitely could not have done it solo. This is a problem because the best car in the family right now is the one that has a manual transmission. I know once I master it I’ll wonder what all my anxiety was about but I’m not there yet.
Honorable Mentions: Are “honorable mentions” even a thing for a blog post like this? They are today, because explaining each one is a blog post in itself, which I don’t want to dig that deeply into right now, but they are tugging at me enough to deserve mention:
  • Never became a doctor
  • Never became fully Spanish/English bilingual (yet!)
  • Never binge-watched anything streaming (yet)
  • Never jumped out of an airplane (never will)

How about you? What’s on your “I never have” list?

$500 Disney Gift Card #Giveaway

Disney Gift Card Giveaway

Between October 2015 and October 2016, I visited Walt Disney World sixsee Disney in a different light times. Not that often by many people’s standards but a real luxury for me and an opportunity to (my daughter was doing the Disney College Program January-May 2016).

What could I have used more of (besides a seventh, eighth, and ninth visit?). MORE money to spend of course! A $500 Disney Gift Card like the one in this giveaway, for example.

GIVEAWAY DETAILS

Prize: $500 Disney Gift Card

Co-hosts: Dorky’s Deals // Coupons and Freebies Mom // Jenns Blah Blah Blog // Pretty Thrifty // The Mommyhood Mentor® // Surviving Mommy // Now This Is 40 // Lipgloss and Crayons // Capri’s Coupons // Young Finances // The Frugal Free Gal // Ottawa Mommy Club // Java John Z’s // Books R Us // Mommies with Cents //  Heartbeats ~ Soul Stains // Angie’s Angle // The Mommyhood Mentor® // Misadventures with Andi // My Dairy Free Gluten Free Life //  Damask Suitcase // Here We Go Again Ready // Mama’s Mission // Virtually Yours //  Sunshine and Sippy Cups // A Helicopter Mom // Oh, The Places We Travel! // Not A Supermom // A Savings WOW! // Sweating Champagne // A Mom Blog

Giveaway organized by: Oh My Gosh Beck!

Rules: Use the Rafflecopter form to enter daily. Giveaway ends 4/7 and is open worldwide. Winner will be notified via email.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disney Gift Card Giveaway