Raindrops on Roses and Music from Elders

Is it possible to discuss “favorite things” without having visions of raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens?

It’s a challenge but I’m going to try to branch out from those whiskers on kittens, thanks to a Mama’s Losin’ It writing prompt: list your five most recent favorite things.

Favorite Things

Here are mine:

Music Therapy

Specifically, the music therapist from Big Bend Hospice who has visited my father-in-law twice. Although I am grateful for the many services provided by Big Bend Hospice, I have jokingly referred to this process as “the revolving door of people who are ‘here to help you,'” inferring that it is an additional chore for me to coordinate them all.

I had put the music therapist pretty far down the “necessary” list, under the nurse (definitely, for health reasons), shower aide (definitely, because Wayne and I can’t do it at this point), social worker ( sanity, please), and incredible volunteer Jim who told him, “yeah, I have a DNR (do not resuscitate) form too,” a perfect response to divert my FIL’s attention from the always-present reminder that this is a very final process.

I had definitely put our music therapist, Marisa (sp?) into the “nice but not necessary” bucket …….. until I heard my FIL, always a man of few words and subdued emotions, SINGING ALONG WITH HER. It really is true about music … it can unlock a person’s heart in a way nothing else can. (Music therapy is especially effective because it doesn’t demand cognitive functioning to succeed. More here via the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.)

Side note: the music therapist uses a little tripod stool like hunters use in the woods (sample here) … and says she can only find ones with camo designs. Anyone know someone who makes little stool covers with music notes (or other non-camo designs)? There has to be a way.

My New Part-Time Job

When I wrote about trying to sharpen my memory recently by using Lumosity, I didn’t know that something else was going to come along that would challenge my brain and shape up my life in other ways.

While I love my contractor work for Weaving Influence, I am also happy to have taken on additional work that adds to our family bottom line, provides needed structure to my days, and challenges me every single time (even though I have had to part ways with my beloved Oxford comma in the process).

In my independent contractor work for a digital B2B company, my duties so far include searching for news items related to certain terms, summarizing news stories into concise (yet informative!) two-sentence summaries, and contributing to the curation of industry-specific newsletters.

Observations along the way:

  • It’s humbling for an editor to be edited
  • Having to be “on duty” at a specific time (7 am) is the best thing in the world to keep me from a slow, easily-distracted slide into the work of the day. Having to report in to someone, and knowing others down the line are waiting on me, is BIG
  • I should have gone to AP Style boot camp at some point in the past; I definitely feel l like I’m doing catch-up on that front
  • It’s humbling to be at square one with a job again. ALL THE QUESTIONS
  • This arrangement was the kick in the butt I needed to file for my LLC
  • It’s so funny to me to be full-circle back at supporting myself by summarizing the news (one of the ways I supported myself during my New York years was by working at a place where we typed summaries of the news FROM VHS TAPES (yes, I’m that old))
  • I’ve been sufficiently a part of the gig economy long enough now that this doesn’t surprise me anymore, but it’s still so interesting to be working for and with people who you aren’t going to run into at the water cooler or trade funny quips with (yet)

All that said, I’m so fortunate to have the challenge of being an independent contractor for Smartbrief. Check out their website and choose a newsletter that fits for you — here has to be something among all the options, ranging from leadership (my fave!) to supply chain. For career opportunities, click here (but leave your oxford comma at the door.)

Writing

Maybe writing isn’t a “thing” like a smartphone, key chain, or cronut, but it’s a perennial favorite with me. Since I’m not running (for now), it has taken on even more of a role as my outlet.

When I write for myself, I process my thoughts. When I write to try to convey a message to others, I am forced to see multiple sides of the issue, and that is not a bad thing.

People Who Give Me Tools to Advocate Effectively

When I wrote my #One20Today-inspired post in advance of Inauguration Day, I committed to various acts of advocacy in the face of an administration headed by someone who did not receive my vote, and whose administration’s choices threaten the rights and peace of mind of many of my fellow Americans (and me).

The challenge is: the craziness, threats, and insults to the integrity of our democracy are coming so fast and furious, it’s easy to be overwhelmed and get paralyzed by indecision (and, frankly, fear of speaking out).

One incredibly bright and insightful friend I met via Shot at Life has created a periodic (at least weekly, sometimes more) list of 4 action items (something to read, a concept to understand, an action to do, a donation to consider) that can help us break out of the paralysis and do something.

As she said, “We don’t get to reimagine history to make ourselves better. We get to be loud right now or we’re not better.”

Here are four of my favorite examples, taken from the action emails:

Read every executive order President Trump has signed so far

Understand why the United States’ signature on the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Refugee Protocol impacted (prior to the stay of the Executive Order) choices by government entities to try to revoke peoples’ ability to board planes and to keep them from setting foot in the US

Do pick something you care deeply about and write a letter to the editor (LTE) of your local newspaper. Here’s a guide and here’s an example. Side note: it’s always a good idea to be aware of your newspaper’s guidelines for an LTE. Increase your chances of getting published by adhering to those rules to the extent possible (i.e., if the limit is 200 words, don’t send 325 and make it harder for them to use your piece). Also, it is a good idea to have civil and friendly relationships with your local journalists. No one likes always being asked for something — it’s totally acceptable to chat with them about the weather or praise their cute puppy pictures if you happen to be involved in their social media streams. AND — not everything you submit will get accepted. Don’t take it personally. (Sometimes if I don’t get something accepted, I run it on my blog. Medium is another choice. Your thoughts/opinions still matter.)

Donate to the International Refugee Assistance Project

If you would like to be on the list, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with my friend!

Naps

When our incredible hospice volunteer, Jim, arrived recently,  I said, “I’ll be working on something in the bedroom.” Do you think every hospice volunteer knows “working on something in the bedroom” means “napping”?

One of the huge benefits of working from home is that it is so much easier to customize my life around my energy needs and fit in a 15-minute power nap around 3 pm. As this article states, power naps are beneficial for alertness and motor learning skills. I am not sure if “and making Paula a lot less irritable” is documented anywhere but I tell you, it’s a thing.

If/when I ever return to the traditional office-based workforce, I can only hope I find someplace with nap pods.Google says “no workplace is complete without a nap pod.” That’s what I’m talking about! Maybe Google will open a Tallahassee branch in the future!

FOR FUN

I asked my Facebook friends what they thought I would say. Although they didn’t hit on the five things I listed above, they were all spot-on (good job, friends!). Here are their answers:

  • Green pens (yes!)
  • Audiobooks (oh yes yes yes)
  • Hidden Figures (yes!)
  • Global vaccinations (for sure)
  • Exchanging pleasant conversation over a good meal (the best thing ever)
  • Disney
  • Wine (for sure)

Good job, friends — you get me, you really get me.

Several people also shared THEIR favorite things, which was fun to see! Also a great segue to the end of this post.

What are your current faves?

Favorite Things

A Heartfelt #StartingIsBelieving Conversation

This post is sponsored by the Florida Prepaid College Board, through my role as a Believer Blogger. All thoughts are my own.

Prepaid Tuition Programs

Oh, Valentine’s Day. ALL the fun of candy, love in the air, and did I mention candy?

On the way to becoming the treats we all know, love, and share on Valentine’s Day, fave candies like Conversation Hearts undergo quite the interesting transformation before becoming sweet messengers.

In this slideshow, Necco explains the process of creating conversation hearts. It takes six steps. Similarly, the process of preparing to fund our children’s higher education costs takes more than one step. Let’s take a look at those steps as the deadline to enroll in a Florida Prepaid plan approaches.

Conversation Hearts, College Funding: Six Steps

Assembling Individual Ingredients

For conversation hearts, the manufacturer begins with sugar, color, corn syrup, cornstarch, flavors, and gums (maybe I just won’t think too hard about those gums!).

When our children are born, they have all the individual ingredients that will eventually serve them in college. Intellect, energy, motivation.

Creating The Blob

Looking at the second step in the conversation heart process, you would never know all that amorphous blobby mound is going to turn into something so adorable and tempting.

Prepaid Tuition Programs

From the NECCO website

For me at least, there have been so many times as my son worked his way through grades K-12 that I wondered “is there hope of this kid making it to higher education?” It doesn’t bode well when games win out over homework 85% of the time.

Sheeting

In the third step, machines press the dough until it’s flat.

We need to be that pressing machine for our children’s futures: forcing ourselves to make a plan for their college education. This involves making hard choices, perhaps giving up some discretionary income that could lead to immediate family fun.

Cutting and Stamping

This must be where the fun begins. The dough is cut into hearts, and the messages are applied!

Those of us who care for children in Florida have an opportunity to shape them and share messages that will impact their futures. 

The Drying Tunnel

After being cut and shaped, the conversation hearts remain in a drying tunnel for 30 minutes.

As I have written before, I am SO fortunate my parents bought my children Florida Prepaid plans when they were infants. A (relatively) modest expenditure almost 20 years ago has given my kids an opportunity to get college educations with the tuition paid for. Like the conversation hearts in the drying tunnel, the money had to sit there, doing nothing, in order to turn into something powerful later on.

Blending the Flavors

Once the hearts are pressed, cut, and dried, it’s time to combine all the colors for a spectrum of deliciousness.

I can’t say we are out of the woods yet with my high school senior, but the same kid who “forgot about history fair” for literally MONTHS between the start of school in August until the night before the due date in January early in his high school career *may* have found his groove and the realization that higher education can make a difference in his future. All those raw ingredients may indeed be coming together into a multi-dimensional kid with a plan (yay).

Packing

Finally, the conversation hearts are packaged into those iconic little boxes (among other packaging options) and transported to stores where they are sold and find their way into Valentine’s celebrations nationwide.

The thirteen years between the day we send our babies off to kindergarten and the day they cross that stage to accept their high school diplomas sure don’t seem that long. Before we know it, they are off to convey their own messages in their own way.

But About That College Funding

Yes, it’s fun to talk about turning a blob of sugar, cornstarch (and yes, gums) into conversation  hearts … but my goal is to draw a parallel between that process and the process of getting our kids to college, especially how to pay to get our kids to college.

A Florida Prepaid College Plan is an ultra-affordable way to give your child (and yourself) the security of knowing a college education with no debt (or at least less debt) is in their future.

Open Enrollment Ends February 28!

The 2016-17 open enrollment period ends on February 28, so time is short to invest in a Florida Prepaid Plan.

Some reminders of why Florida Prepaid is such a great choice:

  • Every Prepaid Plan is guaranteed by the State of Florida, so you will never lose your investment.
  • Prepaid Plans work nationwide. Even if your child attends an out-of-state or private college, the plan will pay the same amount as it would pay at a public college or university in Florida. Our daughter uses her Florida Prepaid at Valdosta State University.
  • If your child earns a scholarship, you have options regarding your plan. You can get a refund for the same amount as the plan would pay a public college or university in Florida.
  • Plans are flexible time-wise. Your child has up to 10 years after his or her year of projected enrollment to use the plan.

Are you the kind of person who tells your loved one you’ll celebrate on the day after a holiday so you can get the goodies 50% off? Well, with prepaid, you have to enroll by February 28 but the good news is you can save the 50% off now! Use the code BLOG1617 and save 50% off the $50 application fee.

Prepaid Tuition Programs

 

About Florida Prepaid

Visit the Florida Prepaid College Plan by clicking here for information. If you prefer to speak with someone by phone, please call 800-552-GRAD (4723).

A Night of Stars: An Honor Flight Benefit

My friend Laura and I went together to the Tallahassee Airport last spring to be a part of the contingent of Tallahasseeans welcoming home participants in that day’s Honor Flight. (Honor Flight Tallahassee transports North Florida and South Georgia veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit memorials that honor their service and sacrifices.)

We had not been to the “welcome home” festivities before and weren’t sure what to do. Therefore, when there was a call for people to hold flags as the veterans disembarked from their plane and entered the hangar, we volunteered.

Veteran Support

As I watched the veterans and their sponsors disembark, I saw a variety of emotions. One, to be honest, was fatigue — the Honor Flight day starts very early and is physically and emotionally packed as the participants fly to Washington, D.C., participate in commemorations honoring them, and fly back. Being WW II vets, they are all elderly to begin with. Other than the fatigue, though, there were smiles, handshakes, hugs, and more than one elder wiping tears away. If it was overwhelming to watch, I can only imagine how overwhelming (in the best of ways) it must have been to be the veterans participating in the day.

Veteran Support

The World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., where the Honor Flight Ceremony Takes Place

Support Honor Flight Tallahassee

The Chiles High School Student Government Association is presenting A Night of Stars Benefiting Honor Flight Tallahassee on Monday, March 6, at 6 p.m. Proceeds from ticket purchases will go toward this year’s Honor Flight experience, to take place on May 20, 2017.

Veteran Support

Chiles SGA members meeting Honor Flight participants at the December 2016 kickoff for Night of Stars.

A Night of Stars will feature two WW2 liberators, Mr. Bryce Thornton of Tallahassee and Mr. George Aigen of Valdosta. Aigen, who has been featured in a Georgia PBS documentary honoring the state’s veterans, was recently nominated for the French Legion of Honor.

Here are the Details:

Where: Cross Creek Banquet Room at 6701 Mahan Drive in Tallahassee

When:  6 p.m.

Meal:    Meal provided by Marie Livingston’s Steak House

Cost:    $25

Tickets/Donations:  Get tickets or make a donation by visiting the Chiles High School website and scrolling down to Events, by purchasing one from a Chiles SGA member, or by emailing Rebecca Bandy, SGA sponsor.

For More Information: Click here to learn more about Honor Flight Tallahassee.

Veteran Support

One Night To Support Those Who Gave So Much

You may feel like there isn’t anything you can do to support veterans BUT as Laura and I learned last year, if you keep your ears open, you’ll be put in touch with a way. Please consider, this year, making one of your “ways” the purchase of a ticket to the Honor Flight All Stars event.

NOTE: Thank you to Rebecca Bandy for sharing information about this event through her blog.

Veteran Support

7 Takeaways from the 12 Days of Fitness Challenge

As I wrote in my guest post for the American Heart Association’s #BreakUpWithSalt initiative, about six in ten caregivers in a national survey by the National Alliance for Caregiving reported that their eating (63%) and exercising (58%) habits are worse than before. I am among those six in ten.

When I stopped running in early October because my rapid heart rate kept breaking through despite taking a beta blocker before exercising, I stopped other exercise activities too. The “reasons” mushroomed easily: once my son was able to drive himself, he was able to stay out after school finished, hanging out with his friends (or whatever). Going to an early morning class so that I could be home before my husband left for work involved an early wakeup that felt increasingly impossible to do. I was embarrassed about my weight gain.

Then the 12 Days of Fitness Challenge happened.

In December, BA Fitness posted on their Facebook page that there would be a “12 Days of Fitness” challenge. The challenge was set to begin the next day, so I had to make a quick decision regarding whether I was “in” or not. I decided! I was in! The basics: Do 12 classes within an abbreviated period of time (15 days). Don’t miss any classes you signed up for (or the clock would start over). In return? More fitness and a lovely custom workout towel (plus a chance to be entered in a drawing for free classes and other goodies.

Fitness Goals

Fast forward to the end. I *did* earn my towel (yay) and gathered a few insights along the way:

Why A Challenge Made a Difference

The Towel

Having done many efforts such as Relay for Life and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, I have always been *amazed* at how hard people will work to earn a tshirt that may cost $5 to make. How many hundreds and thousands of dollars they’ll raise. That was me with the reward towel. Granted, it was exclusive to participants of the challenge who met the 12-class minimum, but in the end it was “just a towel.” But I wanted it! Like Joe, the swag was calling my name!

Fitness GoalsThe Finite Time Line

Because the Challenge had a specific begin and end date, I had to fit my 12 classes in within a specified period of time. That short-circuited any “I’ll get to it eventually” thoughts in my head and made me overcome barriers I had been allowing to stop me from showing up.

Detailed, Transparent Updates

The challenge scoreboard was posted on Facebook at least once a day. Why did that matter? For starters, we could see each other’s progress? A perfect recipe for lots of support sharing (and a tiny quantity of good natured prods (as in, I’m getting up at 4:30 am to make the 5 am class — you can too, friend!)). Since the towels were limited to the first 25 people to complete the challenge, seeing a line of people ahead of us who were closer to hitting the 12-class mark than we were was motivation to step up our efforts and get our butts to class.

Accountability Matters

I had gotten out of touch with the fact that the best thing people and fitness lovers can do for one another is hold each other accountable. I stopped being on “active status” with my team (although my incredible coach still goes way above and beyond to track my workouts). I wasn’t racing so there was no “let’s get some runs in so we are prepared for the next 5K” type activity going on. When I knew my fellow challenge participants would be expecting me in class, and that my NOT going was stealing a spot from someone who needed it (it got pretty hard to find space in classes as the challenge proceeded), I showed up. 

Planning Ahead is Your Friend

Like I mentioned above, as the challenge progressed, it got harder and harder to find space in class. I missed an opportunity to check off one (or two, if I had been willing to do a double) class of my list on a premium Saturday when I actually could go, because I waited too late to sign up. If you have a goal, plan ahead in order to execute it.

Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone Is Good

Because I had to take whatever classes were available, I took some classes I would not have traditionally picked. I got to exercise different muscles (literally), meet new people, and explore exercise alternatives I would not have tried before.

Excuses Hurt Only Ourselves

After I had to get carted back to the start area a mile into a walked 5K in October, something in my willpower deflated. Years of consistent exercise (some of those years with rockingly consistent nutrition (some not so much) felt like a waste of time. I know they weren’t a waste of time, but I was feeling sorry for myself. I was afraid to work out in the event my tachycardia acted up, afraid I would “cause a problem” for the staff or fellow students at the studio if I had an episode, just AFRAID.

Thanks to the challenge, though, for all the morning classes I did as part of a challenge, I drank only decaf before class, took my beta blocker, tried not to feel self conscious about bedhead or wearing colors that didn’t match, and DID IT. If I felt like something was pushing me too hard, I took a break. It was hard to stop worrying about what others thought (lazy/out of shape/unmotivated) but it was an important reminder that not everyone knows our stories.

THE HAPPY ENDING

Yes, I got the towel. More importantly, I got the push I needed to look those excuses, the extra pounds, the logistical challenges, and the health issues in the face and recommit to taking care of myself.

Fitness Goals

My bedhead and I earned my towel after my 12th class, an Indorow class. Pictured here with David Griffin, instructor.

Looks like I am going to need a few MORE towels.

10 Lessons From Lumosity

In July 2014, when Tenley and I were in NYC, we were discussing how to get to Dylan’s Candy Bar, which is located at 3rd Avenue and 60th Street in NYC. Because we had to figure out where to get off of the bus, we had already discussed the cross street once while we were planning our day, within an hour of when we were discussing it again. I said “which cross street again?” She looked at me incredulously and said “sometimes I worry about you.” I said “I do too.”

Memory is a Muscle

As I wrote in a recent post for Weaving Influence, when I read the book Deep Work, I was reminded that the mind is like a muscle. There are things I can try to do to keep it in shape. (I mean …. I want to be able to find the candy stores in this world after all!). I signed up for a year’s worth of Lumosity and got started.

Brain health

Improving Memory

Lumosity is an online tool that helps people train their core cognitive abilities (great explanation of core cognitive abilities here).

The five core cognitive abilities Lumosity focuses on are speed, memory, attention, flexibility, and problem solving.

  • Speed – according to Cognifit, speed is “the time it takes a person to do a mental task” and is related to “the speed in which a person can understand and react to the information they receive.”
  • Memory – according to The Human Memory, memory is “our ability to encode, store, retain and subsequently recall information and past experiences in the human brain.”
  • Attention – Cognifit defines attention as “the cognitive process that allows us to concentrate on a stimuli or activity in order to process it more thoroughly later.”
  • Flexibility – flexibility, an executive function, is “the capacity for quickly switching to the appropriate mental mode,” explains Cognifit.
  • Problem Solving – another executive function, problem solving is “defining the problem in the right way to then generate solutions and pick the right one” according to Cognifit.

Lessons from Lumosity

As I have played the Lumosity games in an attempt to improve my cognitive abilities, I have improved my LPI (Lumosity Performance Index) from 624 to 1141 (yay!). Along the way, I have made the following observations:

Some Games Are Much More Likable Than Others

My least favorite game is Tidal Treasures, which exercises working memory. As the game progresses, you have to choose an item on a “beach” that you have not chosen before. It is the game that takes the longest to play and is so very hard to conquer (but I am experimenting with mind tricks to be better, which I guess is the point of it being an “exercise.”).

Although Lumosity gives me the option to change games when Tidal Treasures comes up, I don’t. This goes in the category of “you have to take on the big challenges to improve.”

You can’t get a perfect score every time.

After each game you are shown whether or not your score that time fit in the top five of your scores in that game. It is so tempting to keep retrying if it happens to be a day you didn’t score in the top five.

It’s short sighted to not just get on with your life when you can’t get perfection every time.

Things Go Better If You Take a Split Second to Get an Overview

One of the games, Train of Thought, addresses divided attention, the ability to simultaneously respond to multiple tasks or task demands. As you increase your level of play, there are more trains going more places, and some trains look very similar to other trains (like the green train that has a BLACK top, compared to the all-green train). I’ve learned to take a split second before re-routing tracks to try to figure out where all the stations are — it makes a difference.

It doesn’t work to start playing a game right away if you don’t take a moment to figure out what field you are on.

Don’t Make Things Harder on Yourself

In the game Speedpack, which exercises visualization, the ability to manipulate or imagine the interaction of objects in your mind, the player has to “move” a camera to a certain compartment of a suitcase and try to put it in a compartment that won’t be full once the suitcase is closed. It reminds me of how much I hated those “what shape will this paper be when it is folded?” kinds of exercises we had when we took the ASVAB back in high school (is the ASVAB still a thing?). Sometimes, I can sit there trying to figure out which compartment to put the camera in when there is a whole row empty that involves no hard decisions.

When an easy option presents itself, take it!

Some Distractions Have Nothing To Do With The Route You Should Take

In Pinball Recall, a working memory game, the goal is to figure out where a ball is going to go based on its starting point and various bumpers in the way. Newsflash: some of those bumpers can’t change the direction of your ball no matter what. They are just there to make things look more complicated than they are!

Don’t assume every barrier is actually going to get in your way.

Don’t Paralyze Yourself By Lack of Confidence

Every single boss I have ever had (that took the time and effort to evaluate me) has said “if only you were more confident in your decisions.” SIGHHHH. So true but trust me never has that been said to me that I then walked out of that office and proceeded to automatically exude more confidence. Lack of confidence is a pretty deeply ingrained challenge. Lumosity to the rescue! At least for the ten minutes I am playing every morning. Success at some games, especially the ones which work on speed, depend on quick reflexes. I can either just make the confidence choice or get a lower score because I questioned myself.

Confidence often pays off. 

Everything in Your Field of Vision DOES Matter Sometimes

The Eagle Eye game tests “field of view” – the “area over which you can absorb visual information without moving your eyes.” (Quotes from Lumosity.) There is a piece of information in the center of the screen (like a number) and a “bird” elsewhere on the screen. The player has to remember the center item while recalling where the bird was.

This game always feels like life itself – you have to remember what is at the center and often be able to take care of important items “on the side.”

We Are Not Always The Best Judges of Our Strengths

hate to admit this (and please don’t tell any future editing or otherwise communications-based clients) but “Word Bubbles Rising” is not (give me just a moment here ….) the game at which I score the best. It is a flexibility game and I score best at problem solving games. Hmmm.

In the same way that a 360 degree evaluation in the workplace gives you insight you don’t expect, opening yourself up to an evaluation of your brain capacity strengths and weaknesses can surprise you.

Mood and Sleep Matter

Every time I start playing, Lumosity asks first what kind of mood I am in and how much sleep I got. Chronic stress can create long-lasting brain changes and depression can contribute to memory problems (uh-oh). Sleep deprivation can lead to problems with memory, concentration, optimism (gasp!), sociability, creativity, and innovation. I can see why Lumosity asks, and having to “report in” every morning is making me think about how I can improve my mood and enhance my sleep hygiene.

Mental Fitness Is a Gift

I’ve been worried ever since I read Still Alice about early brain deterioration. Living with an in-law with short-term memory disorder leads me to be terrified, daily, of what the future might hold. Playing Lumosity may not be the key to staying supple in the brain forever, but hopefully it’s a step in the right direction.

Just like exercise may keep our physical bodies stronger, our brains deserve a chance too.

Inauguration Day and Beyond: #One20

It’s no secret at all that my candidate did not win the US Presidency. The election of Donald Trump to the US Presidency makes me sad, angry, and terrified for the impact his policy choices will have on my fellow Americans, on me, and on the world at large.

But he did win, he is being inaugurated on January 20, and I have a choice to make regarding how I respond.

I am inspired by One20: A Day for Doing Good, a call to do good in our communities on January 20, 2017 (Inauguration Day).

Although One20 is focusing on January 20 to begin with, I anticipate that start will create ripple effects long into the future. One20 has inspired the structure of this post: 20 things I, as ONE single person, can do and say in response to the establishment of the Trump Administration.

1. I am not using the #NotMyPresident hashtag.

The day after the election, my daughter and I were discussing the election’s outcome and the reactions of people around us. “Is it that bad?” was her question. While I do believe it is, indeed, that bad, I am choosing not to use the #NotMyPresident hashtag.

I am choosing not to use the #NotMyPresident hashtag because, like it or not, he is what I am getting. However, in the same way that I went to the Grads Made Good breakfast at Florida State year after year and refused to clap for Dr. Stephen Winters (RIP) who groped me in Dodd Hall when I was a freshman, the professor a higher-up administrator basically looked the other way about when I shared the information, I will not be applauding our new President.

2. An Addition to My White House Selfies

Every time I go to DC, I take the obligatory “here I am in front of the White House picture,” like this one from last September.

Political Activism

When I go to the Shot at Life Champions Summit next month, though, the picture may still have a green pen in it (I mean, that’s the norm now, right?) BUT I will also feature a safety pin prominently in the picture. I have seen so many individuals and groups deeply hurt by the reinvigorated spirit of hatred and divisiveness in our country, it is imperative to me that people know I, like @IBexWeBex, am a safe place.

3. I will participate in the Tallahassee Women’s March on January 21.

Organized by the Florida Planned Parenthood Alliance, the event is “a 100% inclusive event and all genders, races, ages, religions, sexual orientations – everyone! – is invited to participate.”

4. Involvement in local, state, and federal politics.

I will redouble my efforts to be personally familiar with the choices my local, state, and federal leaders are making, and to make my positions clear with them.

5. My Profile Picture on January 20

I am not changing my profile picture to one of President Obama on January 20, as many people I know are planning. This relates to the fact that I am not using the #notmypresident hashtag. I am beyond grateful to President Obama and his family. He has been a singularly outstanding President, and I am so excited about how he can apply his intellect and passions once he no longer has the constraints of the Presidency.

I really can’t explain why this choice doesn’t sit right for me. When Beyonce did an impromptu (and very well performed) rendition of the Star Spangled Banner to prove that she could, indeed, sing the song without a lip syncing, I hated the song being used as some sort of “revenge” song. Somehow using President Obama’s image feels the same way to me. (But I support everyone making that choice.)

6. Helping Homeless Women With Personal Hygiene Needs

In keeping with the idea that we can collectively make big impacts when many people do small things, I am adding feminine products to the non perishables I purchase for local food drives. For more on this topic, visit Bustle.

7. Making an Impact in Person, not just Online

I read a great post on Facebook about how we should attend to seeing how we can positively impact the people within five feet of us. I can’t find the initial post, but the concept is true. It is so easy to get wrapped up in our virtual communities that we forget what we can do for the people right next to us. Let’s do it.

8. Read, Dialogue, Read and Dialogue Some More

I am continuing to read books like Debby Irvings’s Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race and Susan Kuklin’s Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out in order to be better informed then finding a way to act on what I’ve learned and be a part of respectful dialogue in order to bring people closer to one another.

9. I am refusing to stay silent in the face of racist, anti-semitic, or other hate jokes.

When a national rental car company picked me up to take me to pick up a car right after the election, the driver, commenting on how safe my neighborhood appeared, went on to remark, “be glad you’re not in California where those Muslims are lying down in the streets.” When I responded that they had something to say, he went on to explain how we can never get along with “them,” and  how I would “figure that out someday.”

I doubt my attempt to defend Muslims registered with him AT ALL, but maybe, just maybe, he will think in the future before spouting his hatred. It mattered to try.

10. I am not moving to Costa Rica, Canada, or anywhere off of US soil.*

I am not going to let this President and his administration run me off. I love my country, think it is great already, and plan to stay put.

11. Voting Matters Now More Than Ever*

I will support efforts to get out the vote, to encourage people to register to vote, and to make it easy for my fellow citizens to vote.

12. Supporting Equity and Safety for Black Students

I am grateful to have met Kelly Wickham-Hurst, creator of Being Black at School. I have made a donation and will continue to support her work advocating for equity and safety for Black students.*

13. Kindness > Sarcasm

Inspired by Caitie Whelan’s Lightning Notes about The Kindness Impulse, I will strengthen my kindness impulse so it is stronger than my sarcasm impulse. For the record, it would probably be easier to move to Canada!

14. You’re Never Too Young to Learn to Make a Difference

I will believe in the capacity for our the youngest among us to embrace diversity, to make an impact, and to positively influence their peers. A great place to start is by sharing one of the books featured in this #MomsReading blog from Moms Rising.

15. None of Us Can Afford to Be Single Issue Voters

I will continue to educate myself about issues that affect my fellow women and Americans, even if they don’t directly affect me. It started with We Won’t Wait 2016 and will only grow in the face of closed-mindedness and hatred from our newly elected leaders.

16. I will support the LGBTQIA+ Community

I joined Equality Florida in order to stay informed about issues important to Florida’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community (as well as Floridians at large) including Discrimination, Adoption, Family Recognition, Safe and Healthy Schools, Hate Crimes, Voter Mobilization, Marriage, Transaction, and Gun Violence Prevention.

17. I Will Advocate Tirelessly for Banned Books

I will continue to advocate passionately against censorship and other types of limitations to the freedom to read. Learn more about Banned Books Week.

18. Climate Change Is Bigger To Me Now

Although it has not been one of my “top” issues, I will redouble my efforts to track climate change issues and make a personal impact (ten good ideas in this article).

19. The World Beyond Our National Borders Deserves My Support

I will continue to be involved in international issues and in the lives of individuals in other countries for whom my access to freedom, resources, and security can be a help, such as the three children we sponsor in Guatemala and El Salvador through Unbound.

20. I Will Respect The Lessons of History

At the wise recommendation of Steve Schale, I read Rep. John Lewis’s letter of forgiveness to Governor George Wallace today. In one passage, he said, “Much of the bloodshed in Alabama occurred on Governor Wallace’s watch. Although he never pulled a trigger or threw a bomb, he created the climate of fear and intimidation in which those acts were deemed acceptable.” In the letter, Rep. Lewis forgave Governor Wallace, who in his view “grew to see that we as human beings are joined by a common bond.”

President Elect Trump will probably never pull a trigger or throw a bomb himself, but until he is proven otherwise, I stand ready to be one of the many Americans doing my part to mitigate the climate of fear and intimidation I see infiltrating the 2017 version of America which should know so much better by now.

As my friend Mary Schaefer quoted in a recent blog post:

We tell people who we are with every breath we breathe. (Source Unknown)

Mary’s unknown source is so right.

I can’t change who is going to be sworn in on January 20, but I can be a part of keeping America great …. for all Americans … until I run out of breath.

*Items with asterisks were inspired by “my commitments to protecting our democracy,” a reflection on President Obama’s farewell address by Leah Jones. Thank you, Leah, for helping me fill out my list of 20 actions/observations in such a substantive way.

More Ideas For How To Continue Advocacy Beyond 1/20/17

Political Activism

 

Make Your Initial Investments Wisely

This post is sponsored by the Florida Prepaid College Board, through my role as a Believer Blogger. All thoughts are my own.

Monograms: They are enormously popular here in North Florida.

I see monograms on ANYTHING that will fit three letters these days: dresses, athletic tanks, headbands, thermal mugs, boots, umbrellas, Yeti coolers, pacifier holders, burp cloths, blankets, license plates, windshield decals, iPhone home buttons (?), Chuck Taylors … the list is infinite.

Back in the year 2000, when Tenley was 3, monogramming was quite popular among other moms (and kids) but not to the extent it is now. Still, I spent a disproportionately large amount of money on a monogrammed dress for her. The company, which did shows in people’s homes, had compelling arguments: it was well made (true), stylish (true), individual to her because of the personalization (true), and had a deep enough hem that I could continue letting it out as she grew.

The only thing I have left of that dress is a picture.

College Financing

Although some families are flush enough income-wise to spend liberally on children’s clothing and invest in a future beyond preschool, we really weren’t able to do both at the time. It would have been wiser to put that money toward her college education instead and eliminate the need for our family and Tenley to incur student loan debt as we are doing now..

(Note: if you’ve been reading my Believer Blogger posts for a while, you know my parents were more farsighted than I was and bought my kids prepaid plans when they were newborns (thanks, parents!) but if they had not done that, it would have been on my husband and me. I also believe I should have invested in 529 plans to pay for expenses beyond tuition such as books, fees, and housing.)

If you are still on the fence about investing in the Florida Prepaid Plan for your child or a child you care about, consider this before Open Enrollment ends on February 28.

Calculating the Cost of College

I used the Florida Prepaid Cost of Waiting College Savings Calculator to see what parents of a 3 year old today should anticipate regarding college savings:

College Financing

According to the “results” chart below:

  • Based on these inputs, the cost of waiting just one year to start saving for your college goal is estimated to be $79 per month
  • Every year you delay, it costs you more to save the same amount of money for college
  • Four years of college could cost you over $206,000 fifteen years from now. You could save 100% of the projected cost by putting aside $774 a month, if you earn a 5% annual return for fourteen years.
  • If you wait just one year to start saving, the monthly cost goes up to $853 to save the same amount of money over 15 years.

College Financing

All Those Facts and Figures. What is the Bottom Line?

The bottom line is this: the things you think matter so much now may be a lot less important down the road.

The Florida Prepaid College program, with more options than ever including a one-year Florida university plan, a 2+2 Florida plan taking advantage of our fabulous community college system, and a dormitory plan, is something to think about now. Even putting it off until next year could be costly.

Take it from me; what I should have had monogrammed was a bank, not a dress.

College Financing

A Head Start

With the code BLOG1617, you can save 50% off of the $50 application fee!

College Financing

For More Information

Visit the Florida Prepaid College Plan by clicking here for information. If you prefer to speak with someone by phone, please call 800-552-GRAD (4723).

College Financing

The Gift of the Present Moment: A Book Excerpt

Dr. John Izzo’s new book, The Five Thieves of Happiness, defines insidious mental patterns that steal happiness. The five thieves are control, conceit, consumption, coveting, and comfort. I appreciate Dr. Izzo sharing this excerpt from his book, concentrating on the thief of control.

Focused Mindset

The Monkey with the Clenched Fist

The thief of control makes us like the monkeys of Southeast Asia who were captured at one time by locals through a simple yet cruel trick. Sweets were placed all around a tree, and a coconut was hollowed out, leaving a hole just large enough for a monkey to slip his hand through. Inside was placed a sweet. The other side of the coconut had a bolt that was chained to a tree. When the monkeys came and ate the sweets spread around the tree, one monkey would inevitably pick up the coconut, reach inside, and grab the treat. But the hole was not big enough to get the clenched fist out.

The monkey would often try desperately to carry off the coconut, but, try as he might, the coconut could never be taken nor the sweet removed from its shell. The only thing  the monkey had to do to be free was unclench his fist and let go of the sweet. Yet most monkeys fought until utterly exhausted. The islanders would simply capture the monkey in that exhausted state. The monkey’s undoing was his own attachment and inability to let go.

Attention Without Attachment

Happiness is knowing what we can control and accepting what we cannot control. At the most basic level, happiness comes from understanding that we can control our actions and our responses to things external to us, but we cannot control the results of our actions. Focusing on our actions brings happiness; focusing on the result of our actions brings unhappiness.

The Buddha and Jesus often appear to the casual reader to be very different in their approaches to enlightenment or salvation (the two terms used in each tradition). In fact, the more one examines the teachings of each, the more one sees the way that both teachers emphasize the need to surrender to that which is at any moment. This is why the Buddhist Thích Nhâ’t Hanh has written extensively about the similarities of each teacher.

When Jesus encouraged his followers to look to the flowers of the field as role models because they did not seek, he was making a very important spiritual point. When he said, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”¹ he was making the same point. It is not the lack of control that brings suffering but the desire for control, which keeps us from lasting happiness and peace.

One of the big moments in my own life was when I first understood the distinction between attention and attachment. Attention is the energy and choices I make, whereas attachment is an inner desire to control what is inherently uncontrollable. Another way to think about this is to see it as intention without tension. Having goals in life, or even desires of what we want to happen in any particular situation, is not a problem in terms of our happiness. It is when we become attached to controlling an outcome that the thief starts to rob us. The theft of our happiness rarely comes from our intentions but from the tension we feel when attached to the outcomes of things.

How do we know the difference between attention and attachment? Attention is about taking action in the present moment toward hoped-for ends, whereas attachment is becoming wed to a particular outcome’s being the source of our happiness.

I play a great deal of tennis, and this point can be illustrated easily there. Happiness on the tennis court is found in the experience of the body playing the game, the joy of experiencing the way the body, the racquet, and the ball all become one. In my most sublime moments playing tennis, my focus is simply on being fully present in the game, attentive to how I am hitting the ball and moving my feet. The moment I become focused primarily on whether I am going to win a point is the very moment when tennis becomes a source of unhappiness. Of course, I have the intention of winning a point and even the match, but this is an outcome I cannot control. What I can control is my intention to be as fully in the game as possible at every moment.

Life is much like that tennis game. We are happiest when we are simply fully present in each moment, expressing our intention through our focus and unattached to the outcome as the source of happiness.

Often we discover that the outcome—the goal we have become attached to—turns out to be less rewarding than the striving (the intention). My partner, Janice, tried out for the national baseball team in Canada for 18 years! For almost two decades, she worked hard, played hard, and practiced hard, and every year she tried to win a spot on the roster. Every year she failed to make it until finally, after all those years, she was given a spot. You would think, of course, that the outcome would have been the highlight of all that struggle. The opposite turned out to be the case. Getting on the team was anticlimactic compared with the present-moment focus, year after year, of trying to be the best player she could possibly be, both on the field and in the inner mental game. Besides, she could not control the outcome, so the more she focused on the process, the happier she was.

In order to center yourself with present-moment focus and deter the thief of control, I recommend this mantra, which has worked beautifully for me:

Focused Mindset

Dr. John Izzo is a corporate advisor, a frequent speaker and the bestselling author of seven books including the international bestsellers Awakening Corporate SoulValues ShiftThe Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die, and Stepping Up. His latest book is The Five Thieves of Happiness.

Over the last twenty years he has spoken to over one million people, taught at two major universities, advised over 500 organizations and is frequently featured in the media by the likes of Fast Company, PBS, CBC, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, and INC Magazine.

Connect with him via his website, on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

¹Luke 12:25 (New International Version).

 

4 Good Luck Foods to Welcome 2017

There are not that many things I am superstitious about. The superstitions I do hold, however, maintain a powerful grip on me, and although my outward observance of them may be shrouded in me saying “what could it hurt to [insert fulfillment of superstition here]”? but my inner self is screaming “please please let this one be more than a superstition!”.

The traditional southern New Year’s Day meal, for example. Today I will travel to my hometown to share the traditional New Year’s foods. When I haven’t been able to go to Lake Butler, I’ve always visited a local restaurant for the necessary “good luck foods.”

A Traditional Southern Good Luck Meal

Although I’ve read that the tradition is pork, black eyed peas, and greens, the pork part has always been sort of an optional part of the good luck triad for me.

But let’s give it its due.

PORK

Here’s Southern Living’s take on the role of pork:

The more pork and ham in your meal, the more luck you will have. Because of the amount of fat in pork, it is a symbol of wealth and prosperity. Some people also say that because a pig uses its snout to dig in the ground while moving forward, eating pork on New Year’s signifies progress and moving forward. So don’t just use ham hock and fatback to flavor your veggies; eat a baked ham or pork chops as a main dish.

My parents have always insisted on seasoning the New Year’s greens with pork (hog jowl to be specific) but having pork as the meat has never felt that critical to me.

Moving forward, though, sounds like an intention I can definitely embrace, so my snout is now engaged with this idea!

GREENS

I did not appreciate greens (turnips, collards, etc.) as a kid. I really started to like them during my teenage eating disorder phase, when anything with minimal calories was attractive because it was something I could put in my mouth (this was also my tab and carrots phase …).

Once I started liking greens, I really liked greens. That affinity has lasted long beyond the point at which I was looking for zero calorie foods.

I think one component of my love for greens is understanding how much work they involve. It takes a LOT of greens to turn into a yummy bowl of greens deliciousness. They have to be picked, washed, prepped. It’s a process. I’ve seen my mom do it countless times — I’ve heard her excitement when she mentioned how a relative unexpectedly left a bag of greens at the front door. Greens are affection in the south, and a delicious affection it is (especially if you add hot sauce — the kind where peppers have soaked in vinegar). YUM.

Anyway, what greens are supposed to represent is prosperity (green, like money…). The truest prosperity representative is apparently cabbage, but all the southerners I know do collards. This piece describes the cabbage/collards evolution in detail.

I’ve been alive 52 years and can’t say I’ve ever had a positive financial development and said this must be because I ate greens on January 1 but I’m all for giving fate any assist it needs in bringing more monetary green into my life!

BLACK-EYED PEAS

Black-eyed peas are a must for New Year’s Day as well. As this article explains, black-eyed peas represent coins whereas greens represent paper money.

Black-eyed peas also take me back to so many hours spent on the porch of my maternal grandparents, shelling peas. Back then, I didn’t see the point, but a lot more was exposed than delicious peas as we sat around freeing the peas from their hulls. It was a time for telling stories, intergenerationally. Shelling the peas also gave us an appreciation for the work that goes into the food we eat.

CORNBREAD

The more I read articles about traditional southern New Year’s food, the more I knew I needed to include cornbread. However, cornbread doesn’t touch a sentimental or superstitious cord for me.

Apparently, cornbread represents gold.

Therefore, why have I been ignoring you, cornbread? Welcome to my New Year’s Day plate!

Financial Prosperity is Great, But Emotional and Health Prosperity is Even Better

I would love for the pork, the greens, the collards, and the cornbread to transform themselves into more income and less debt for 2017. We are facing big decisions as my 403B dwindles, another child graduates from high school, and my father in law’s health declines.

But honestly, I crave continued abundance in the quality of friendships I am lucky to have. I would love to see the people I care about be free of cancer, chronic health issues, and mental health challenges that no amount of money will fix. I want to be rich in courage: the courage to more confidently state what I need, in my marriage, in my professional life, to my own deepest self.

I suppose the start of all of that begins when I pick up my fork at lunch tomorrow … and dig into that pork, those greens, the black-eyed peas, and the cornbread.

What could it hurt to try?

Holiday Traditions

New Year’s Day 2016 – New Times Country Buffet

Christmas 2016

As I was addressing Christmas cards this year I was laughing at my younger self.

At how I would coordinate every piece of the process: the photo session at a studio, the card design itself, a special sharpie to sign the cards with (one year was all silvers and blues), holiday stamps that matched the theme, return address labels which coordinated with everything else, a special little note pad I could use to add a personal note, and even little coordinating seals to put over the envelope flaps.

This is not that year. My return address labels have only my name (and “The Big Green Pen”); the stamps were a mixture — some happened to be holiday stamps; others were generic. I did use a green pen to address them with (that was a no-brainer). But in no way was this year’s effort the coordinated, expensive, meticulous equivalent of years past.

I suppose in my progression from perfectionist to realist there is an allegory for life itself.

I just know I am grateful for this gift of family, imperfections and all.

Christmas 2016

I am also grateful for those of you who have read my blog, commented, shared, and encouraged me, whether you have been with me since 2009, are just reading me for the first time, or something in between. Looking forward to a perspicacious 2017!