PERSON (FMF31 2019 Day 21)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: PERSON

I was surprised to see one person mentioned during yesterday’s “in memoriam” moment at the conference I’m attending.

This is my first time at this conference, and I just completed a full year editing the newsletter for this group in September, so there are many things I’m still processing about an annual cycle. Being able to attend their conference makes a big difference in putting the pieces together and understanding how the people who (hopefully!) read the newsletter view their work.

Last year, a California city manager went missing. It was quite a mystery. We covered some of the logistics of that city council’s management of his absence — someone had to do his job in the interim. There was an investigation to be conducted and a reward to be offered.

Ultimately, when he was found deceased, I decided not to run that in the newsletter (rightly or wrongly).

Throughout the weeks between his disappearance and the discovery that he had died (he was found in his city vehicle, submerged in a lake), there were quite a few articles and there was a bit of conjecture about why he had disappeared. Was it on purpose? Was it a sudden medical issue?

Being me, I thought about this situation A LOT.

***end of five minutes***

What I didn’t know was that his peers would have an “in memoriam” segment at their conference. That his name would be among those lost this year. No asterisk, no questions. Just respect.

I appreciate being able to spend time with these people who (hopefully) read the newsletter I help produce.

And I appreciate the dignity accorded to John Wooner, former city manager of McFarland, Calif.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

TELL (FMF31 2019 Day 20)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: TELL

Editing and live tweeting are very different things, but they do something for me that I appreciate — they make me pay closer attention to whatever is being written or said.

With live tweeting, it makes me attend more closely to the content a speaker is sharing. Also, as someone who doesn’t get to go to all the conferences I would like (who does, really?), I appreciate when someone else live tweets because it gives me access to something I wouldn’t otherwise hear.

With editing, I have to process what has been written more deeply than if I were just skimming it. Liz Kislik’s blog about how to tell someone something they needed to do differently in their work is a perfect example. Our goal is to provide two-sentence summaries of full-length pieces, something that is more challenging than you might think.

It appeared in Thursday’s SmartBrief on Leadership, which I was editing in my managing editor’s absence. Her point? People can wilt if their feedback is the combo of “you did x well” but “you need to do y differently.” The “but” is a sure way to deflate someone before even getting out the words to explain what needs to be improved upon.

She briefly discussed the “and” option, which I also loved because I believe improv is an important tool for all communicators.

However, she transitioned to suggesting “now” instead of “but.” It makes so much sense when you think about it. Such a more hopeful word that implies forward movement and potential rather than some sort of deficit.

Now, how can you relate differently to someone you need to coach today?

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

STRONG (FMF31 2019 Day 19)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: STRONG

I end up reading about Darren Walker, CEO of the Ford Foundation, pretty often. I edit the BoardSource newsletter, which is geared toward nonprofit boards of directors, for SmartBrief, and he’s a pretty big deal in those circles.

Yesterday, I was reading a piece he wrote that discussed a new vision for capitalism in a world where there is so much inequity, financial and otherwise. Walker was talking about a prominent businessman, and the man’s contention that the companies where his organization invests must create long-term value in the world.

Walker wrote, “I hope that BlackRock’s [the business he was referencing] strong words will be met with equally strong action.”

Isn’t that the disconnect we often encounter? We can create a need for strong action by uttering strong words “I am going to do my part to change that situation,” for example. Conversely, we probably undertake strong action sometimes without having thought about our rationale.

But sticking with the fact that our strong words are not always met with strong action, I think that somehow gets at one of society’s challenges today. We can retweet a tweet about a cause in the hopes of raising awareness. And such awareness is good, because it may encourage/inspire someone else.

But it is in taking strong action that I suspect we stand to make a bigger difference.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

ACTIVE (FMF31 2019 Day 18)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: ACTIVE

I’m not sure if this prompt response is going to be among my most coherent, because I am incapable of turning off the first #AllWomanSpacewalk that is being livestreamed right now.

The two astronauts are active in space right this second, following instructions given to them from ground control.

Some of the responses on Twitter have been (due to the nature of commenting on Twitter) less than encouraging.

“It’s a shame this has to be news” (I don’t disagree!)

There’s also quite a bit of snark about NASA’s mission.

I’m also annoyed that I woke up early to catch this, and then still managed to miss the beginning (because I was still on the NASA channel where they had broadcast a news conference in advance of the walk).

But I’m here now, writing and listening.

I love all things space, and have had the opportunity to participate in NASA Socials three times. I love the challenge of trying to explain the scientific content to my fellow laypeople.

This is also reminding me of Mike Massimino’s book, where he discussed his own spacewalk as he repaired the Hubble Telescope. I gained a whole new appreciation for the intense preparation the astronauts go through, and how many things can go wrong (hence the intense preparation).

One thing about this spacewalk that sort of coincides with our spiritual journeys is the necessity of trusting the instructions you’re given. Ground control is telling them commands they have to follow, some of which don’t make sense when the astronauts are doing their work outside the International Space Station, in the dark.

We can’t always trust ourselves and our instincts, and knowing when to bring in someone who has our best interests at heart (and much more information to work with) can be key to our safety.

**Note: If this seems long for five minutes, it’s because I messed up the timer somehow. I finally looked at it when it seemed like this had taken longer than five minutes, and sure enough the mark had come and gone. Maybe I just need to concentrate on the astronauts today!

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

CONSISTENT (FMF31 2019 Day 17)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: CONSISTENT

“At least you (or I, or they, or she/he) are consistent.”

This is something I say in jest … um … “consistently.”

It’s usually after someone has said something relatively self-deprecating, like “I was five minutes late to work again today.”

“At least you’re consistent.”

Even though I say it relatively in jest, I do find consistency to be a huge asset.

Maybe I’m trying to wrap being change-averse and habit-bound into a pretty package, but I know what a difference consistent people make in my life. Especially once I had kids, I came to appreciate even more how much I appreciated the consistent people in their lives.

On the flip side, is it boring to be consistent? Am I missing something by not being more spontaneous?

I suppose there’s a balance here — consistency in the way we present ourselves professionally and among the people in our lives who count on us.

But if I daydream about some less-than-consistent choices, I think I would find myself taking an unplanned road trip on a weekend (once my car woes are settled). Possibly eating somewhere new. I have a $25 gift certificate to a favorite coffee place that I still haven’t managed to use.

Maybe it’s time to set up a somewhat spontaneous coffee date with people who count on me to be consistent the rest of the time.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

AVOID (FMF31 2019 Day 16)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: AVOID

I am developing a whole little sub-genre here on my blog of posts about “I made an error at work today and am coming to terms that we are all human.” Errors are unavoidable, I know. And I would tell any other individual (mostly) to give themselves grace, but it sure is challenging to do the same for ourselves.

Obviously, there are myriad other choices I could have made for the prompt “avoid,” but this situation is fresh in my mind and they always say “write what you know,” don’t they?

When I discovered the problem, which wasn’t a typo and wasn’t a death knell, I had a choice — let it pass and see if the client noticed (because a reader wouldn’t have known) — or be proactive and tell the client right away.

I told the client right away (which is what I always do), with no small amount of self-recrimination. When I want to be self-deprecating among my co-workers (which, let’s admit, is often because that’s how I am), I usually say something along the lines of “What do I know? I’m a home ec major.” It is not lost on me that in a time of severe cutbacks in the publishing world, I have been given an opportunity to do something that others do so well and would probably want the opportunity to try.

I also worked for 20 years in a quasi-governmental space, so it’s a whole different world working at a for-profit venture.

I’m going to go with the idea that being upfront when something didn’t go right is better for the bottom line than avoiding discussions about what needs to change.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

OPEN (FMF31 2019 Day 15)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: OPEN

I just happened to catch the story out of the corner of my eye yesterday as I was preparing to go to “live TV” on CNN. The headline was something like “Hamilton star mourns.”

I did not know anything about Miguel Cervantes, who is starring as Alexander Hamilton in the show’s Chicago run right now. I did after reading the story. His 3-year-old daughter died from an extreme form of childhood epilepsy.

I went down the rabbit hole — to his Instagram, which led me to his wife’s Instagram, which led me to her blog.

It’s easy to think being so accomplished in theater must be some kind of golden ticket. Good money, lots of notoriety, a fan base, work you love.

And I wonder how he mustered the energy and concentration eight times a week to play his role, given the challenges faced by his daughter and the rest of his family.

I also read that he and his wife lost a baby between their son being born and this daughter’s birth. The baby had a serious deformity in utero and she shares her story of their choice here.

How do you go through so much pain and remain open to sharing so much of yourself with the world, as he does via acting and she does through her blog and social media presence?

I am at a loss to know how, but something about the way this family has conducted itself gives me hope and empathy.

Their daughter’s life touched us all. Her name was Adelaide.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

VOICE (FMF31 2019 Day 14)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: VOICE

I have friends whose daughter has had a breathing tube since she was born late last year. Having the breathing tube in means they can’t hear her voice.

She’s having surgery next month during which she’ll get a “speaking valve” that attaches to the breathing tube to enable her to vocalize.

Of course if it saved your child’s life, you would forgo hearing them cry or vocalize, but the mom has said on social media (because the baby has her own page — maybe that’s her way of having a voice) how badly she yearns to hear the baby’s voice.

I get that (as much as someone who hasn’t been in that situation can get it).

The voices of our loved ones matter.

When I was a summer missionary long, long ago, one of my peers had laryngitis and couldn’t talk. She asked me to talk to her family. I did, and relayed messages back and forth.

Why it didn’t occur to me that she would like to hear their voices I don’t know, but she looked pretty crestfallen when I hung up and hadn’t put the phone up to her ear so she could hear their voices (this was long before texting/facetiming/emailing were options — it was a bit of a production to make a long-distance call).

I read up a little bit about the valve that allows an infant with a breathing tube to speak, and it’s a bit complex. It involves more training for the baby’s caregivers (as if they haven’t had enough over almost a year of having a medically complex child).

But they won’t be crestfallen to hear her voice. Quite the opposite.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

REACH (FMF31 2019 Day 13)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: REACH

What started as a tiny pain in my shoulder (I thought I had slept wrong) in February 2019 grew over a period of months to something much more painful and disturbing.

My range of motion became more and more restricted. I couldn’t reach a high shelf in the kitchen (or anything that involved something high above me). My whole arm hurt. My hand got numb. It got bad enough that I called the doctor (which says a lot!). I’m not doctor-averse, but I tend to shy away from taking the time. (I was also overdue for some basic physical-type stuff anyway.

Frozen Shoulder
Here’s an example of something I certainly couldn’t do when my frozen shoulder was at its worst. That and tying a bow behind my dress, turning my head to look behind me as backing up my car and anything that involved reaching high.

In the midst of all this, I ended up having this painful-yet-funny situation that I shared on Facebook.

My doctor’s appointment was on a Monday in July. He ordered an X-ray. I went and got the X-ray that afternoon, then waited for some diagnosis. Backing up, when I arrived at the doctor, all their phone numbers on me were outdated (owing, I guess, to the fact that I had not been in a while). I corrected them so they would have the correct number to get in touch with me.

About a week later, I got snail mail with a letter that said “we can’t reach you — call us.”

Turns out they had been calling the ancient numbers, not my new number.

The nurse read off the X-ray results: “Arthritis and a bone spur.” Well — that didn’t sound good.

Commence the lengthy wait (about a month) to get into the orthopedist. Interestingly enough, Dr. Thompson is the same orthopedist who set Tenley’s foot when she was 3 and broke it jumping off the bed 20 years ago.

**end of five minutes**

He did a few diagnostic activities with me and asked if I had ever heard of “frozen shoulder.”

It’s another name for adhesive capsulitis, and it means the shoulder joint tissues develop tightness and scarring that keeps the shoulder from rotating.

After a month of waiting, having convinced myself of the worst — that I would have to take time off work to have surgery — the solution (they said) was four stretches, twice a day.

Now, I’m a bit of a pessimist about being handed sheets of paper with stretches. It reminded me of the balance exercises we were supposed to do with my father-in-law, also disseminated when a medical professional handed over some sheets of paper and said “do this every day.” (To be fair, I am a bit more compliant as a patient than he was!).

The good news? THE STRETCHES WORK!

The situation isn’t perfect yet, but my range of motion is so much better and the pain has lessened a good bit. I read (and the doctor confirmed) that frozen shoulder does clear up on its own eventually (he also mentioned some people get it in both shoulders at once — I just can’t imagine how those people keep functioning!).

I’m glad I trusted the sheets of paper (and the doctor) this time. I also learned (yet again) a lesson about why catastrophizing without doing extensive research or waiting to hear a specialist’s opinion is so counterproductive.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

FIRST (FMF31 2019 Day 12)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: FIRST

You would think I would learn. After pretty much a lifetime of being everyone’s proofreader — and now having a job as a bona fide editor — I should put the final proofing touches on a document rather than assuming I can say to someone, “I still have to do my final proofing but here’s the idea.”

I know this is a bit cryptic, but hopefully you get the picture. I sent a document to someone in my work world this week because they wanted to get a general sense of it before providing their piece. I sent it, with the caveat of “I still have to do a final proofing, but here’s the draft.”

Of course the other individual did exactly what I probably would have done — sent it back with the cyber-equivalent of red proofing marks. That individual was 100% right, but it was embarrassing.

The back-and-forth also introduced a question that person had that opened up a small can of worms. It was resolved, but not without a few more emails and a bit of angst on my part.

I didn’t think I had time to proofread first, but I spent three times as much effort to do damage control because I shared the document before it was really ready.

I imagine part of the point here is that no one is perfect, that it did get handled, that we can paralyze ourselves with the fear of something not being right to the point that we don’t get our jobs done. Of course that point is valid too.

I just know I learned my lesson about this specific situation. I have to put a bow on it before I send what I’ve written. Otherwise, the gift gets a little banged up in the “mail.”

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes