Seeing The Light (The Optimism Light)

I will admit it. Sometimes I hope the traffic pattern results in me being stopped at the intersection of Capital Circle Northeast and Centerville Road here in Tallahassee so I can check in on FourSquare at “The Punishment Light.” (And, living up to its title, I usually have time to check in,  peek at my Facebook, send a tweet, and whip up a smoothie.)

Likewise, I am a frequent visitor (and checker-inner) at “The Longest Light in Tally” (the intersection of Capital Circle and Apalachee Parkway). I view this checkin as a little “we’re all in this together” nod of commiseration to my fellow Tallahassee Drivers who endure plenty of time at this intersection.

Because of my route to work, the Capital Circle intersection I can guarantee being at daily is the intersection of Capital Circle and Mahan Drive. The light is not quite as long as the two mentioned above, but it’s a major intersection that typically found me fretting about how late I was to work, how I was going to get everything done that I had committed to, how I was going to overcome the problems big and small in my life. It was yet another place to give in to worry and anxiety.

Still Shot from Traffic Camera Number 013

Which is why, on my birthday on November 28, I pulled over at a business at that intersection and created my own checkin for the intersection of Capital Circle and Mahan Drive: The Optimism Light. It is an alternative to the “Capital Circle NE and Mahan Dr.” checkin. It was a gift to myself. And it fascinates me how having one small symbolic homage to the positive makes a difference. If I am stopped at a red light there, I checkin and take a deep breath. And then I:

  • Say a brief prayer of gratitude for the indisputably precious gift of another day
  • Send a positive intention for a friend or someone I know of who is ill or troubled
  • Give the person in front of me, beside me, or behind me the vibe that “it’s okay – we’ll all get where we’re going” instead of “what’s taking you so long to MOVE?!”
  • Hope that hope will prevail in the face of the world’s darknesses

And, you know, I would be lying if I wrote, “and if no one else ever checked in here, that would be fine – I created this for myself.” Honestly, I want others to check in there (and I appreciate those of you who have). It’s why I tweet the checkin every time and post it to Facebook. Around 50,000 cars pass through this intersection every day. You could argue that taking two seconds to give your fellow driver a break or say a quick prayer/intention (whatever your faith tradition) for someone else is not even a drop in the bucket. But, in my opinion, 50,000+ drops could create some waves of tranquility.

Image source: “solrac_gi_2nd”

And in a world where it’s all too easy to make waves with sarcasm and vitriol, waves of optimism surely couldn’t hurt any of us.

Why Tweet When We Are Already LinkingIn on Facebook?

(Image Source: Invisible PR)

I have been wanting to blog about social media for a while now.  I never could find exactly the right angle, until Weigh Your Mind’s Social Media Blank.  Jason of Weigh Your Mind has become one of my favorite Twitter acquaintances, through the very simple act of conversational tweets back and forth about this and that (AND the occasional retweet of my blog).  When I finally decided to visit his site and figure out the site behind the tweep, I ran across the Social Media Blank and voila! I had my mechanism for discussing social media (thanks, Jason). 

The red sentences indicate the “starter” thoughts and the underscored areas are my responses.  I added additional commentary below some of my responses.

Here goes:

The most important thing about Twitter is how it can instantaneously help people in geographically (and interpersonally) distant places share the same experience, real-time.

I prefer words over pictures on Facebook.

Strange, right?  I mean, the site is called “Facebook,” not “Wordbook.”  I do enjoy the pictures, but I have a slight grudge because exposure to all of these pictures still does not help me overcome my horrible, horrible memory of faces and names.  I like the words, though, because I seriously love to communicate via the written word, and Facebook gives me the platform (with the added bonus of pics) to share my good news, bad news, and quirky observations with a lot more people than if I were relying on the spoken word. 

The most common mistake on Linkedin is thinking you have it figured out.

I do have a Linkedin profile, and when I get “so-and-so wants to connect with you on Linkedin, I usually follow through,” but I am skeptical that Linkedin can ever do anything for me professionally.  Sometimes when I read “testimonials” for people whose abilities I know pretty well, I wonder if the recommender and the recommendee have ever even been in the same room.

In the next 5 years, I predict social media will morph repeatedly, presenting us users with the challenge of keeping up and adapting.  I also think many things that are currently “free” may  move to a fee-based arrangement.

The most positive result I have seen from social media is giving multiple generations a way to communicate on a somewhat even playing field.

I got on Facebook partially to keep up with my teenager.  But I rapidly integrated Facebook into my everyday routines.  For some entities with whom I communicate (such as FSU Film), if I were not on Facebook, I would miss so many opportunities.  And on a level that is very “micro” from the standpoint of the Facebook universe, I have had opportunities to exchange thoughts and feelings with FB friends about experiences past, present and future that I would not have had without FB. 

I also read that the fastest growing demographic for Facebook is ages 55 and above.  I can always hope that my children’s grandparents will get on the bandwagon and share the fun. 

I use social media to connect, connect, connect.

And, I have to admit, to fulfill my curiosity about details that I would not have known about people who are otherwise relatively casual acquaintances without access to their pictures, relationships, and favorite stuff. 

The social media platform I use the most is Facebook because it is easier to keep up with than Twitter.

Maybe I still haven’t found the right Twitter platform, but Twitter feels like a snapshot and Facebook feels like the full length movie.

I consider Twitter to be a) a whole lot important than it was six months ago and b) a prime method for promoting my blog and my identity as the Big Green Pen.

I think the social games on Facebook are not for me.

I find them especially problematic when my 11 year old boy plays things like “Midnight Racer II” and I end up with status updates like, “Paula just unlocked a Fly Ferrari and is gonna smoke some suburbia a** tonight!”

(But I do admit those little Farmville animals are awfully cute.)

On Linkedin, I don’t think I have figured it out.

When writing this blog, I discovered that I have not changed my Linkedin profile job title, which changed ten months ago in November 2009.  Nobody noticed. 

What does this all mean?  What I hope it does not mean is that I am addicted to Facebook, as Ron Greenstein apparently suggested to my husband a few months ago.  What I hope it does mean is that I have found another way to connect with people, using a medium that draws upon my writing skills and allows me to share more of who I am. 

And if connecting in writing doesn’t work out?  I can always arrange a #tweetup!

Good Plain Fun

Today, April 11, 2010, is Holocaust Remembrance Day.  As my contribution, I am sharing an essay I wrote last year.  I originally wrote this essay in response to a Literary Mama prompt.  I never heard back from them, but I loved writing this piece and fantasizing about it actually happening.  I re-read (via audiobook) “The Diary of A Young Girl” prior to writing this essay and discovered that a) Anne Frank’s name was probably pronounced like “Donna” as opposed to “Dan” and b) reading this book now that I am the parent of a teenager was a completely different experience than it had been when I was a young girl myself. 

The prompt essentially instructed us to write, in 500 words or less, how we would interact with our favorite author.  How would we conduct the interaction, and what would we ask?

Good Plain Fun With My Favorite Author

Anne Frank’s diary could have been penned by my own 13 year old. When I listened to the audiobook version today, this is the line that most resonated with my current “parent a teenager” mode: “I sometimes wonder if anyone will ever …… merely see me as a teenager badly in need of some good plain fun.”

I would not want to have a serious conversation with Anne. She had enough “serious” in her time in hiding than anyone should have in a lifetime, much less fifteen years. Rather than a deep conversation, I would want to have little snippets of overheard online conversation like I have with my daughter, who is usually too busy having fun to converse at length with me.

(I am waiving “real time” in order to invite Anne into our home as an exchange student. )


Our family lives in Tallahassee, Florida. I am Paula, and my husband is Wayne. Our daughter, Tenley, is 13. Our son, Wayne, is 10. We also have a cat, Alice Cooper. Tenley is a cheerleader, and our son Wayne likes cars and video games.

From Anne:

I am a little apprehensive about leaving my family behind but the adventures ahead will be all worth it! I am 13 (like your daughter!!) and have a sister who is three years older than me. I have had several cats, but I haven’t ever had a younger brother.

I am only 13 but I am positive I want to be a journalist someday. My diary will make the trip with me. I enjoy reading and French, but my family would probably say my favorite pastime is talking. Thank goodness for Skype!

Once our family learns we’ll be having an exchange student, Facebook attests:

TENLEY’S STATUS: Exchange student coming!!!!!!!!!!

FRIEND’S COMMENT: What’s her name?


FRIEND’S COMMENT: Where’s she from?

DAUGHTER: Holland.

FRIEND’S COMMENT: She’ll LOVE the dress code at school.

OTHER FRIEND’S COMMENT: I hope they have belts in Holland.


Fast forward to December, about a third of the way through the school year.

More Facebook:

HER STATUS: Soccer game against Deer Lake tonight with Tenley!


MY STATUS: Go Raa Rams!

ANOTHER FRIEND’S STATUS: My mom is so lame; I’m grounded.


MY STATUS: Hey, back off the mom hating!!

HER STATUS: Tomorrow I start my first Hanukkah in the US! Missing my family (even my mom).



The letter I send home with Anne when she goes back to Holland talks about how we enjoyed having another teenager around (even if it did double the drama factor), and tells her to always remember the crazy funny things she did with her US girlfriends – the dress code, the “sleepless” sleepovers, the shaving cream fights ….. to always know that the Kiger house is where she can lay her head and dream her journalist’s dreams, after days and nights of good plain fun.